Campaign highlights the steep cost to individuals and the economy of the poor state of Illinois’ roads, rails and bridges
(Chicago) … From crumbling roads and bridges to slow, crowded transit lines, most Illinoisans have a frustrating transportation experience at least once a week, if not every day. The new Accelerate Illinois campaign (accelerateillinois.com) kicked off today by calling on citizens, organizations and businesses to channel their pent-up frustrations into a message to lawmakers in Springfield: We must invest in improving Illinois’ transportation system. The campaign pairs data with stories from individuals across the state who are tired of missing dinner with their families, shelling out hundreds of dollars in repair bills and losing business because our transportation system is inadequate.
Accelerate Illinois is led by the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), and partners include AARP, Active Transportation Alliance, Regional Transportation Authority and Transportation for Illinois Coalition. See the complete list of partners at accelerateillinois.com. Individuals who want to show their support are urged to sign up at accelerateillinois.com.
“When you listen to Illinoisans’ clearly stated frustrations, it’s clear: We need to stop throwing up our hands at this problem, and start unleashing the pent-up demand for better transportation options in Illinois,” said MPC President MarySue Barrett. “We all pay a steep price for the poor state of Illinois’ roads, rails and bridges. From missed appointments to higher delivery costs, our failure to invest adequately and consistently in our transportation network is more than a frustration. It’s a drag on our economy.”
We can’t afford to put off investment any longer. Further delay will only rack up the costs to individuals and our economy, highlighted by the stories and data below:
- Andrea B. in Peoria is tired of dodging the same darned potholes she has encountered every day for three years on her route to work. Andrea’s $800 pothole damage repair bill was just a fraction of the extra $3.7 billion a year Illinois drivers spend on repair bills and operating costs. Potholes and bad road conditions are almost impossible to avoid: Three-quarters of Illinois roads that are in mediocre condition, according to American Society of Civil Engineers, which in 2013 gave our roadways and transit systems a D+ grade.
- Driving is roughly 12 times more expensive than taking transit. However, convenient transit remains inaccessible for many people in the Chicago region, much less statewide. For some, it’s hurting their job prospects. Justin S., a student who doesn’t own a car, told us, “Because the nearest train station is three miles away, I constantly have to ask my friends for rides to the station. This prevents me from having an off-campus job and severely limits my mobility.”
- “I usually take the Metra into the city, but when I do drive, I buffer an extra 30 minutes. Freight trains have been known to sit still over 25 minutes,” Abby C. told us. “The worst part—it cuts off flow to the hospital, and I often see ambulances stuck.” Maintenance and simple improvements to increase reliability could save Illinois train commuters more than 800,000 hours of delays every year—and reduce the 7,800 hours that cars and trucks spend daily waiting at rail crossings.
- Drivers in metropolitan Chicago spend 71 extra hours a year stuck in traffic, up from 18 hours a year in 1982. Kevin O. lamented, “I've wasted a whole hour tonight when I should be at home with my family,” and noted that it happens once every couple of weeks. Umayr A. elaborated on the unpredictability of Chicago traffic, saying “you never know how long it'll take.”
We’re investing less in transportation than before.
The Illinois gas tax hasn't changed since 1991, when the 19 cent per gallon tax was worth almost twice what it is today. To put it in perspective, today Americans spend on average $2 for a dozen eggs that only cost $1 in 1991. Inflation has made the gas tax we collect worth only half of what it once was.
Other states are leaving us in the dust.
This starvation diet has put us in the red to the tune of $1.8 billion a year. We can’t even maintain our roads, bridges and transit lines, much less make modest improvements.
Illinois is far from the only state to find itself in this situation, but other states have taken action and used options like these to maintain and make common-sense enhancements to their transportation networks:
Raise the gas tax and index it to inflation. Four out of five states have increased their motor fuel taxes more recently than Illinois. Today, our gas tax costs the average Illinoisan about $8.25 each month. Since 2012, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming have all updated their fuel tax to raise revenue. Many switched to a wholesale tax that will keep up with inflation. In Illinois, such reforms could be part of a package including a small increase in other broad-base taxes.
Increase transportation user fees. Since 2012, states like Delaware, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia have adjusted transportation-related user fees, such as tolls and vehicle registrations.
End diversions and dedicate revenue. In recent years, Illinois has diverted more than $100 million dollars in transportation user fee revenues to non-transportation needs. In 2014, Wisconsin passed a constitutional amendment that ensures money from transportation taxes and fees go into a dedicated, protected transportation fund.
It’s time to move Illinois forward.
Accelerate Illinois brings together citizens, organizations and businesses that share one message for Illinois lawmakers: We want transportation to be a priority in 2015. Individuals are urged to show their support by signing up at accelerateillinois.com. Businesses or organizations who wish to become a partner and add their logo to the campaign can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Accelerate Illinois, contact MPC Communications Director Mandy Burrell Booth at 312-863-6018 or 773-640-1206; or MPC Assistant Communications Director Ryan Griffin-Stegink at 312-863-6019 or 312-379-9747.
For more stories from Illinois residents and more data about the state of Illinois’ transportation system, visit accelerateillinois.com.