- Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner announced on May 29 a plan that will see an $11 billion investment in the state’s bridges and roads during the next six years under the Illinois Department of Transportation Multi-Year Proposed Highway Improvement Program. Illinois will spend $2.2 billion of state and federal funds toward that total on infrastructure in the upcoming fiscal year.
- State transportation officials also included asset management and repair components in the multi-year program for the first time in order to avoid expensive deferred maintenance, allowing the state to roll that money into additional projects.
- Illinois officials estimate that the six-year initiative will improve 1,945 miles of state roads and 525 state bridges, upgrade more than 750 miles of local roads and more than 920,000 square feet of local bridges.
Rauner's announcement came just a few days before he signed the state's fiscal 2019 budget, according to the Chicago Tribune. A budget stalemate between the governor and state legislature last year led to a four-day shutdown of 900 transportation projects, worth about $3.3 billion, which resumed only after Illinois lawmakers overrode Rauner's veto of a 32% tax increase and a veto of the $36 billion state budget.
Illinois' decision to include deferred maintenance in its multi-year plan is significant, especially since, according to the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, the state's annual transportation infrastructure maintenance and repair need is almost $5 billion. The report added that Illinois' gasoline taxes would have to increase by nearly 350% and special fuel taxes by 365% in order to raise the necessary funds. Other options would be to increase vehicle registration fees by 470% or to institute a four- to five-cent-per-mile user fee.
Such measures could see voter backlash, however. California raised gas taxes and fees to pay for its $52 billion state infrastructure repair program, a minor amount compared to its estimated repair backlog of $130 billion. California taxpayers are rethinking that plan, though, and have been gathering signatures to put a repeal of the gas tax to a vote.