Mayor Rahm Emanuel today joined members of the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus to call for a statewide capital bill to pay for critical transportation infrastructure needs, funded largely through an increase in the state motor fuel tax which has remained flat for gasoline since 1990. Illinois has not passed a statewide capital bill since 2009.
“For Illinois to maintain its status as the transportation hub of the nation, we need to make major infrastructure investments to support our transportation systems,” Mayor Emanuel said. “In addition to critical funding to replace aging roads and bridges, sustained, flexible revenues need to flow directly to public transit. As the backbone of our larger transportation network and a stimulator of economic development, transit needs a dedicated, reliable revenue source so that we can continue to modernize and grow the system.”
According to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), the region needs $24 billion in added revenue through 2050 to maintain the current system, without addressing the backlog. In addition, CMAP estimates that another $32 billion is needed to improve the condition, enhance and expand the current system. Decades of underinvestment have created a significant backlog of projects to reach a state of good repair.
Federal and state revenues that support transportation investments have not kept up with costs or inflation. Recent signals from Washington point to growing reliance on state and local revenues to fund these needs.
The state needs to raise revenue for infrastructure, and a 20 to 30 cent per gallon increase in the motor fuel tax and other traditional transportation funding sources is a reasonable and widely-supported place to start. Other states and regions are far ahead of the State of Illinois and metropolitan Chicago in raising revenues to support infrastructure projects. About half of the states including Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa and Ohio have raised transportation revenues since 2012, while Illinois’s gas tax has been at 19 cents per gallon since 1990. Every five cent per gallon increase in the motor fuel tax results in approximately $20 million more in City revenue and over $250 million statewide.
The northeastern Illinois region is the economic engine of the state, accounting for 80 percent of the economy and two-thirds of its population. The Metropolitan Mayors Caucus represents 275 communities and over 9 million residents of northeastern Illinois.
The proposed capital bill is based on five principles:
“All funding options need to be on the table,” Mayor John Ostenburg, Chairman of the Mayors Caucus and Mayor of Park Forest said. “Revenue sources that have traditionally funded roads and transit in the past can support our needs today. However, with the continued emergence of new transportation technologies, they won’t last long. We need to have the courage and foresight to experiment and pilot new sources of revenue for infrastructure.”
“CMAP applauds these leaders for working together to address the urgent need for transportation funding in our region,” Joseph C. Szabo, CMAP executive director said. “We are at a crisis point, and increasing the gas tax is a crucial first step. We owe it to the public to make sure we achieve a lasting solution – one that is sustainable, flexible, and user-based – to ensure we can invest in the best possible projects and help our communities prosper.”
Under Mayor Emanuel, Chicago has invested billions in improving its transportation infrastructure but without state a state capital bill and serious state funding needed, repairs for roads, bridges and public transportation networks in the city, in the region and across the state continue to pile up. The City has been aggressive at creating and using TIF dollars to fund transformational projects like Red and Purple Line Modernization. Though the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has seen unprecedented investment under Mayor Emanuel—more than $8 billion in modernization and improvements projects—much of the CTA’s infrastructure is decades old and needs rebuilding or replacement. Mayor Emanuel also pushed for the creative use of the TIFIA loan program to fund the construction of the acclaimed Riverwalk that has fueled the boom along the Chicago’s river fronts. The Riverwalk has proved to be a phenomenal success and revenue from vendors is exceeding projections and helping to repay the loan.