CAIRO (WSIL) — Gov. JB Pritzker’s new budget bill, filed in the Illinois Senate last week, includes much-needed funding for the Alexander-Cairo Port District.
The bill is seeking $40 million for planning, design, and construction of a new port on the Mississippi riverside of Illinois’ southernmost city. Support for funding the project is gaining traction in Springfield, said State Senator Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg), adding that the project would dramatically improve the region’s economic outlook.
“This is a game-changer for, not just Cairo, not just southern Illinois, but for the entire region, ” said Fowler. “We’re working with multi-billion dollar companies and have been for over three years now, and these companies, they project that Cairo, the confluence, on the Mississippi side, will be the nation’s hub for river port transportation.”
Senator Fowler says if approved, private funding will also enter into the project, which would get underway by this fall. Cairo has been the backdrop for a number of economic redevelopment plans because it is perfectly situated on the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, however, nothing has ever materialized leaving the community struggling.
“I know, it takes time. It’s okay if it takes time, as long as they do it,” said Abdo Sabeha. He owns and operates Cairo Food Mart and said he hopes the support in Springfield materializes into real improvements to the city he has called home for the past five years. He said he has witnessed more loss to the community than gains in that short period of time.
“It’s a big difference between before and right now. It’s slow, but it can be way better, it can be much better around here,” said Sabeha. He says his customers tell him of a better economic past he hopes the community will experience again.
“Yes, they talk about it, used to be a big town, nice town,” said Sabeha, adding that if the construction comes through, “Will be good, we will work, we will have a job, and we all be happy, and all will be happy.”
Construction of the new port will bring jobs and the economic growth the community is ready for, said Fowler.
“Again, all we’re doing is capitalizing on the resources we currently have to offer and as we do that, it’s going to create other opportunities.”
Senate Bill 3923 was filed by Senator Don Harmon of Oak Park and has bipartisan support in Springfield.