REPORT: Illinois Needs $4.6 Billion Per Year to Fix Roads, Bridges, and Transit Systems

Falling Motor Fuel Tax Revenues Accelerate Funding Shortfall

La Grange:  The rapidly deteriorating condition of Illinois roads, bridges, and transit systems is producing increased congestion and vehicle maintenance costs, and the annual cost of needed repairs currently stands at $4.6 billion per year, according to a new study released today by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute.

Read the study, “Forecasting Bumpy Roads Ahead: An Assessment of Illinois Transportation Needs.”

Click here to read an Executive Summary.

“The failure to adequately fund maintenance of Illinois’ transportation network undermines the state’s economic competitiveness and increases both financial costs and safety risks to the traveling public,” said study author Mary Craighead.  “These problems are getting worse by the year—not better.”

In making the case for urgent transportation funding, Craighead notes that the backlog of IDOT roadway miles requiring immediate attention has increased by 85% (from 1,700 to 3,300) since 2000.  Sixty-two percent of the state’s bridges are over 30 years old, with roughly a third more than 50 years old and having “exceeded their design life.”  Almost 31% of the Regional Transportation Authority’s assets are not in a state of good repair and downstate transportation systems face a ten-year maintenance funding shortfall of $2 billion.

If nothing changes, Craighead notes that the situation will worsen dramatically—with the IDOT road backlog expected to grow by 101%, and the bridge backlog to grow by another 64% by 2023.

While the report notes that motorists are paying 29% less in motor fuel taxes to support the maintenance of state transportation systems today than they were in 1999, it also points out that they are already feeling the effects of the backlog.  Since 2000, the average peak Chicago commuter has seen their annual time spent in traffic delays grow from 52 to 61 hours, with annual maintenance costs due to inferior roadways costing each driver around $630 per year.

“These effects cannot be disconnected with the fact that the revenue generated to maintain these systems is substantially smaller than it was twenty years ago,” Craighead added.

With the Trump Administration’s infrastructure proposal offering few federal funds and emphasizing state and local revenue streams, Illinois would need to generate more than $4.6 billion per year to bring all statewide transportation systems into a state of good repair.  The report notes, as extreme examples, that this would require a 347% increase in gasoline taxes or a 472% increase in vehicle registration fees or a 4-5 cents per mile user fee charged to each Illinois driver.

“While no one wants to pay more in taxes or fees, the simple fact is that this problem only gets more expensive and more dangerous with each year that we kick the can down the road,” Craighead concluded.  “This report argues for considering the cost of the transportation systems on which we all rely like any other utility bill.  Put in perspective, even if we increased fuel taxes to pay for these needed repairs, transportation would still be amongst the cheapest utilities for most Illinois families—and that’s without including the value of reduced time spent in traffic delays or lower vehicle maintenance costs due to poor roadway conditions.”

Craighead will be presenting the findings of her recent state transportation needs assessment at the House Transportation: Regulation, Roads & Bridges Committee Hearing on Wednesday, April 4 at 10:00am, located on the 6th floor of the Michael A. Bilandic Building in Chicago. The hearing will be on the effects of the proposed federal infrastructure plan.

The Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) is a nonprofit organization which uses advanced statistics, reliable surveying techniques, and the latest forecasting models to develop timely and dynamic analysis of policy issues affecting the economies of the Midwest.

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