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  • Sacred Conversations 2016

Springfield lawmakers want oversight commission to monitor 10th Street rail promises

Two lawmakers representing Springfield’s east side said Thursday that they will call for creation of an oversight commission to monitor promises made in conjunction with the 10th Street rail corridor project.

Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, and Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, said they will introduce identical bills in the House and Senate to create an oversight commission composed of lawmakers and community leaders.

The commission will have the authority to hold hearings on the project and determine if promises for minority employment and community involvement in its planning are being kept.

“If there are benchmarks not being met, we have a place to air that out,” Manar said at a Statehouse news conference. “Today, we have nothing.”

An agreement was struck last year between the Faith Coalition for the Common Good and Springfield, Sangamon County, the state and congressmen representing Springfield on a community benefits statement connected with the 10th Street rail corridor project. Among other things, it called for 30 percent of the jobs created by the project to go to low-income people, minorities and women, for relocation assistance to be given to people who will be displaced by the project, and for people affected by the project to have input into planning and monitoring.

The 10th Street rail corridor project involves relocating Springfield train traffic from the Third Street tracks to 10th Street. The relocation will greatly increase train traffic on the 10th Street corridor and will require construction of a series of underpasses and overpasses to prevent traffic tie-ups. The project will also take about 150 parcels of property along the corridor.

The Rev. T. Ray McJunkins, the Faith Coalition’s president, said some aspects of the agreement are not being honored. McJunkins, who is running for Ward 1 alderman, said the organization is not receiving monthly reports about jobs for minorities and women for the 10th Street project from either the city or the Illinois Department of Transportation, nor were people from the affected community included in decision-making for the Carpenter Street underpass, which is currently under construction.

IDOT referred questions about the 10th Street project to the city of Springfield. Springfield Mayor Mike Houston released a statement Thursday saying the minority hiring information sought by the coalition regarding the Carpenter underpass should be available.

“The project is being constructed using Illinois Department of Transportation procedures, including minority participation,” Houston said. “There is an IDOT employee who monitors the minority participation on the project to insure that the project is meeting the IDOT minority standards. That person meets with the Faith Coalition for the Common Good and should be able to provide them with any information they may need. It is important that the interests of all the stakeholders in the project, including the city of Springfield, are protected.”

Manar said it is important that provisions in the agreement be honored.

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