March 28, 2022

U.S. Sen. Duckworth stops by Burr Ridge to celebrate culvert funding

Source: Pioneer Press


U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth stopped by Burr Ridge on Saturday to celebrate securing federal funding for the Elm Street culvert which is expected to prevent flooding and could save the village close to $1 million in construction costs.

The funding comes from the America Rescue Plan Act, a pool of federal money set aside to help communities hit hard by COVID-19. The village had long considered replacing the failing bit of infrastructure but with a much smaller and cheaper culvert, about 50 % larger than the existing culvert. Besides being too small, the current pipe is also rusty.

With the federal funds and a culvert some 500 times larger than the existing culvert, village leaders believe issues of flooding could be minimized for years in an area about 3.5 square miles.

“It’s a great, great project,” Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso said Saturday, at a small ceremony at Elm School.

Grasso went on to explain that not only does the project help local residents, it’s an example of bipartisan support between Republicans and Democrats in Washington.

“Today is what good cooperative government and resident participation can achieve,” Grasso said.

Grasso himself is running for Congress as a Republican and Duckworth is a Democrat. Still, the mayor praised the senator and her willingness to work with local village engineers to secure the project’s funding.

“Too often today our government on all levels works on a partisan basis only,” Grasso said. “Partisan politics is not helpful and it’s often wasteful. Today shows us that collaboration … can bring real progress and benefits to all of us.”

However, Duckworth pushed back at that, noting that while the bill did get some Republican support, over half the senators in the GOP voted against it.

“At the end of the day when push comes to shove it was Democrats who delivered this and I’m sorry to say that because floods don’t care what party you belong to,” she said.

Besides saving the village money, the new culvert will save the residents and the school money by lessening the risk of floods. Trustee Guy Franzese, who is head of the stormwater committee, said the new culvert could mean residents were only at risk of a bad flood every generation and the culvert itself is expected to last 75 years.

“We knew if we increased the pipe size we could decrease flooding into neighborhood yards,” he said.

He added that years ago another culvert failed and it took the village six months to get it fixed.

“It could fail at any moment, we don’t know,” he said of the current culvert.

Duckworth added that federal funds should go to local projects like the culvert and, historically, they have. Only in recent decades that funding dried up, as earmark programs — specific funding directed at local projects — basically ended about a decade ago.

“In 1971, the federal cost share of water infrastructure projects was just shy of 70 %,” Duckworth said. “By 2017 that federal share dropped to 9 %. And we wonder why we haven’t fixed our sewer systems.

“The federal government hasn’t been carrying the load.”

“As the senator pointed out, the important part of the money came out of Washington, and partisan politics aside, what happened here should happen around the country. … Washington can work with counties such as DuPage and Cook and have a positive impact on Burr Ridge. We can get good things done if we work together and we have proof of that today.”

After the ceremony, Duckworth and local officials briefly visited the culvert across the street from the school.

By:  Jesse Wright