AUBURN GRESHAM — The city’s new Chicago Works program will put people to work on infrastructure projects as officials try to create jobs and recover from the economic disaster of the coronavirus pandemic.
Chicago Works will be a five-year, multi-billion-dollar project, with the city investing in infrastructure work like repaving roads, repairing bridges and planting trees. This year, the project’s first, will see $600 million worth of infrastructure modernization projects. And in an effort to get people employed, most of the projects will require at least half the work be done by Chicago residents.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the program with Alds. David Moore (17th), Derrick Curtis (18th), Gilbert Villegas (36th) and other officials Monday at Dawes Park.
The infrastructure modernization projects will “enhance the quality of life for all Chicago residents in all 77 communities,” while providing a pipeline to businesses in need of “talented, skilled workers,” Lightfoot said. The city will rely on data to “select and prioritize investments,” beginning with those in the worst condition.
Making the announcement at the site of a Department of Transportation arterial resurfacing project at 81st Street and Damen Avenue, the mayor said Chicago Works will allow the city to “unlock its full potential.” CDOT will spend the next two years using state and federal funding to resurface 75 miles of arterial streets as part of the program.
Five hundred more residential blocks will be resurfaced each year as part of Chicago Works.
“With an emphasis on equity, the Chicago Works infrastructure plan will allow us to invest in the lives of residents in need and bring our entire city closer together by literally building bridges between our communities,” Lightfoot said. “This will give our residents the resources they need to succeed right in their own neighborhoods and ensure that our city retains its reputation as a world-class destination filled with state-of-the-art infrastructure.”
The plan also calls for large-scale investment in replacing and repairing roads, bridges, sidewalks, streetlights and traffic signals, including nine streetscape projects in INVEST South/West neighborhoods. The city will invest in public art and projects that it make it easier for residents to walk and ride their bikes along the city, like bikeways.
Funding for 2021 and 2022 projects will come from the city, which will use a $1.4 billion general obligation bond.
Chicago-Cook Workforce Partnership, which oversees job training for the city and county, will work on outreach, connecting job seekers to contractors for the projects. While it’s too soon for a rough estimate of how many residents will be put back to work, hiring is underway, said CEO Karin Norrington-Reaves, who opened the Chatham Workforce Center in January.
Strict oversight will be employed to ensure residents from underrepresented communities aren’t shut out, said Lightfoot, with City Hall and Chicago-Cook Workforce Partnership working together to keep the process honest.
“This City Council has challenged the administration, and we partnered together to make sure that we send a message to the construction industry that we want to see people who look like us, Black and Brown communities, participating on these projects,” Villegas said. “We want to make sure that minority, women, and veteran-owned businesses are participating not at the sub level, but at the prime level.”
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