MPC: Illinois needs to get back on the map with transportation innovations and investments - Metropolitan Planning Council

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MPC: Illinois needs to get back on the map with transportation innovations and investments

Metropolitan Planning Council releases recommendations for a new state capital plan, featuring new ideas for reducing congestion and raising revenue to support much-needed transportation investments

( Chicago ) … Cities have been trying to build their way out of congestion for years, and it’s not working. New roads get filled to capacity within one decade of being built, while rising construction costs render cities and states financially incapable of laying pavement fast enough to keep pace with population growth. In metropolitan Chicago, commuter delay has more than doubled since 1985.

Places that are successfully fighting traffic have one thing in common: they’re trying new, cost-effective approaches to give people better options for getting around. To help move Illinois and the Chicago region into that category and out of gridlock, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has hosted and participated in multiple events over the past year, highlighting the need for fresh thinking and new revenue for capital projects. The best ideas to emerge from those meetings have been compiled in the new report, Putting Illinois Back on the Map: Prosperity through Innovation and Investment.

The report includes a menu of options for shaping and funding a state capital investment plan to build and maintain roads, bridges, transit, schools and housing – a plan that is long overdue since Illinois ’ last capital plan expired in 2004.

Putting Illinois Back on the Map also uses a series of maps to make the case that Illinois is lagging behind other U.S. states in transportation investments, threatening our economic well-being. According to the Texas Transportation Institute, the Chicago region alone loses $4 billion annually – $500 per resident – to traffic delay, a staggering number that has risen steadily in recent decades. Businesses in Chicago , Illinois ’ economic engine, have cited transit access as a key attraction to locating here; without it, they’d be more likely to relocate to other cities. Meanwhile, individuals are tired of spending their hard-earned dollars on gas wasted while idling in traffic: MPC estimates that with gas at $3.95 a gallon in Chicago , and an estimated 17.2 percent of each gas tank wasted sitting in traffic, people are frittering away $11.21 every time they fill up their tanks.

To stretch limited taxpayer dollars as far as possible and achieve the highest return on transportation investments, the first change Illinois must make is developing an objective, performance-based system for rating and selecting transportation projects.

“State and federal funding programs are mired in earmarking and deal-making practices that overlook many deserving projects,” said MPC Regional Policy & Transportation Director Michael McLaughlin . “ Illinois needs a system for rating and selecting projects that give taxpayers the biggest bang for their buck.”

Putting Illinois Back on the Map also recommends Illinois explore the following ideas:

  • Create opportunities to build and maintain new, much-needed infrastructure in Illinois by authorizing public-private partnerships.
  • Explore new ways to manage demand for roads, such as congestion pricing.
  • Give metropolitan areas – which collectively account for the vast majority of U.S. population, jobs and GDP – more authority and funding sources to make capital investment decisions, which currently rest largely with state governments.
  • Raise $52.5 million for capital improvements by increasing Illinois ’ drivers license fee, which has not been increased since 1983.
  • Secure an additional $325 million for capital investments by implementing a weight-based vehicle registration fee, assessing heavier vehicles that do more damage to roads at a higher rate.
  • Create a steady funding source to alleviate freight bottle necks by starting a rail freight trust fund, supported by a small tax on containers entering the most congested freight rail areas.

“Chicago’s proposal to pilot bus rapid transit, the Illinois Toll Highway Authority’s study of variable toll pricing on its roads, and the Illinois Works Coalition listening tour are among the many signs that Illinois leaders are ready to try a different approach,” said MPC President MarySue Barrett . “We hope this report will spark fresh thinking at all levels of government, and be a catalyst for a new state capital plan in Illinois .”

MPC will send this report to members of the Illinois General Assembly andsubmit it to the Illinois Works Coalition, which has been touring the state since February to get the public's take on how Illinois should fund the next state capital plan. MPC also is convening experts from Chicago, San Francisco, New York City, and Stockholm, Sweden, to share transit innovations in best practices and research. Over two years, exchanges will be held in each city and Chicago forums will feature the take-aways. For more information, contact Michael McLaughlin , MPC regional policy & transportation director, at 312-863-6022, or mmclaughlin@metroplanning.org .

"Putting Illinois Back on the Map" is available on the MPC Web site.

Founded in 1934, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group of business and civic leaders committed to serving the public interest through development, promotion and implementation of sound planning policies so all residents have access to opportunity and a good quality of life, the building blocks of a globally competitive greater Chicago region.

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