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Polls question ignores the real issue of Illinois FIRST

Chicago -- Whether you're out to borrow money or propose marriage, the answer you get usually depends on how you ask the question. Consider your recent Tribune/WGN-TV poll, with results published in the Oct. 29 Metro section, that asked a sampling of area folks whether the $12 billion Illinois FIRST program should continue, or be suspended, now that the economy--and with it, state tax revenues--is in decline. Not surprisingly, given the poll's context and phrasing, 45 percent voted to suspend, with 37 percent opting to continue and 18 percent offering no opinion.

But what if your pollsters had asked it differently? What if they asked whether the state should eliminate the migraine-inducing Hillside bottleneck at the junction of Interstate Highways 88 and 290 and Roosevelt Road? What if they asked whether the Chicago region, where average commuting times are rated the third worst in the nation, could benefit from the repair or replacement of hundreds of obsolete bridges and more than 1,000 miles of crumbling and/or unsafe roads? What if pollsters asked whether our state's slowing economy still needs the 89,000 construction jobs being generated during the five-year public works bonding program? Or the 1,000 permanent jobs coming to the Ford Motor supplier campus on the Chicago's Southeast Side, or the 8,000 jobs coming to the Joliet Arsenal Redevelopment--two of many private-sector investments being leveraged by Illinois FIRST?

Add up all the benefits of Illinois FIRST, from reduced travel times to induced economic activity, and you quickly get to the real question that needs to be asked: What will state leaders do in 2004 when the funding expires well before our state and region have caught up on their transportation needs?

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