Illinois has one of the most robust transportation systems in America. We boast the third-largest number of interstate miles and bridges of any state, 54 transit systems, hundreds of miles of multiuse trails, more than 1,000 miles of navigable waterways, and more than 7,000 miles of rail. That’s a lot of stuff to maintain in good condition. And most of our federal and state transportation dollars go toward maintenance, guided by a Transportation Asset Management Plan.
But beyond maintenance, how do we decide where to invest? In the past, decision making around state transportation investments hasn’t been so transparent, but an important new bill and corresponding tool change that reality.
Bring on the transparency. As required by legislation (HB253) recently signed into law by Governor Pritzker, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has developed a new, draft Data Driven Decisions tool in order to increase public visibility of this process, select projects equitably, and to prioritize investments that generate the greatest benefits. This new tool is a technique of performance-based planning, a decision-making framework that uses data to inform choices. Performance-based planning is an established best practice advocated by the U.S. Department of Transportation and is being used by a number of other states. MPC has long advocated for the establishment of such a tool, especially since the 2018 passage of Rebuild Illinois, which injected additional funds into the state’s transportation system. This process will help ensure those funds are spent in the most effective way possible.
The process begins with the goals in the state’s Long Range Transportation Plan, which establish the transportation outcomes we are trying to achieve. For each of the goals, one or more criteria will be used to score projects. There is also one criterion that incorporates regional input to account for the great diversity in needs throughout the state.
The Department hosted a webinar Sept. 29, 2021 on the proposed criteria. A recording of the webinar can be found by clicking here. A copy of the presentation is available here.
IDOT is also seeking input from stakeholders via a survey about the tool.