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Chicago lawmakers push for equity and transparency in transportation proposal

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill.- Several Illinois lawmakers hope to establish more transparency when it comes to selecting and planning transportation projects across the state.

Two Chicago Democrats aim to better represent minority and rural communities in regards to construction on roads and bridges. In short, House Bill 253 would create a transportation performance program.

Sen. Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago) said the goal is to ensure projects aren't just going to wealthy or primarily-white areas.

"We need to rectify this inequity if we're really going to give communities of color, give folks from rural communities, the best opportunity to provide for their families and contribute to their local economies," said Villivalam.

The program would also allow taxpayers to see which transportation projects are funded and why. Villivalam said it's important that lawmakers ensure residents are able to trust government agencies. However, he emphasized that starts with the Department of Transportation.

"We need a transportation and infrastructure system that allows people to access to services they need," said Villivalam. "That's why people come to Chicago, Cook County, the state of Illinois in the first place and we need to go back to that."

Impacting neighborhoods

The sponsors explained there have been troubling statistics in the past few years with an increase in traffic crashes involving pedestrians. A Chicago resident explained she hasn't owned a car for over 11 years. Ruth Rosas explained she relies solely on riding her bike or taking public transit to get where she needs to go.

"Theres a stark difference between walking and biking on these roads compared to other roads in Chicago," said Rosas. "These differences, the noise, comfortableness, and safety have impacted my livability and the livability of my neighborhood."

Rosas also hopes the proposed changes can reflect her neighbors and herself. She stressed first-hand experiences have shown how improving the environment of a community directly effects health and wellness of residents.

"Our governing bodies need to make sure that they are keeping underserved communities front and center," said Rosas. "So that people feel comfortable walking, biking and using public transit and driving on any street that they choose."

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