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March 30th, 2000

Equality in Construction

Gov. Ryan of Illinois got in to office last year based, in part, on his Illinois FIRST program, which ensured repair on many of the state’s pothole-laden highways. One of those highways is I-290, the Eisenhower. At one point in its course, the 290 accepts traffic from three sources: Roosevelt Road, I-88, and I-294. In one lane.

This incredibly shortsighted exercise in design is called the Hillside Strangler, after the suburb it’s located in. It’s pretty much solid traffic any time of the day or night. One of Ryan’s promises would be to repair the Strangler, and sure enough, it’s starting to happen.

The construction company that won the bid for the project was able to do it for the lowest price overall, and in the shortest amount of time. Yet, last week, there was a human chain protest that blocked traffic on the Strangler for a good 20 minutes during morning rush hour. The reason?

The company’s workers are predominantly white.

The members of the chain insist that the state is being racist when it comes to hiring workers for projects. A similar event occured when reconstruction of I-55 began, although it had considerably less impact. I’m quite certain that heads of minority groups in the area will be involved before long.

It’s an issue that’s very touchy overall. In my mind, I don’t see a problem with the situation because the state is a business, and it’s looking for two things and two things only: the cost and the length of time involved. That’s it. I’m certain that if a company with a different mix of employees put in a lower bid, there’d be no issue. In this case, it’s simply a matter of business. But it seems that some are almost too apt to look for reasons that might not be there. – pm

Posted in Miscellaneous

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