A state lawmaker who supported doubling the state’s gas tax to pay for infrastructure projects said a new audit could mean some planned projects won't get funded.
The audit found that dozens of bridges in Illinois weren’t inspected in a timely manner.
The Illinois Auditor General released an audit Thursday of the Illinois Department of Transportation for a two-year period ending June 2018. Among other issues, the audit found that 78 bridges that weren’t inspected on time. Twenty-eight bridges were overdue for routine inspections, some were up to 4 years overdue. Ten were listed as the responsibility of an adjacent state and five were rated structurally deficient, the audit said.
There were 27 bridges set for special inspections that were overdue. Five were overdue by more than two years. Another seven bridges were overdue for underwater inspections.
Eleven were overdue for fracture critical inspection. Two of those were over 21 years overdue.
State Rep. Margo McDermed, R-Mokena, is on a House transportation committee. She said it was important for information like that to reported on time, especially when lawmakers are planning infrastructure projects like the six-year, $45 billion capital plan that was just enacted. Lawmakers voted to double the state's gas tax to fund the capital plan.
“Now we learn that we don’t even know the entire scope of the situation because not everything has been inspected,” McDermed said. “Then the situation is even more serious."
She said she had some questions about what the audit means for the state's capital plan.
“That would have maybe made a difference in how we put together the capital bill or in what our expectations of what IDOT will accomplish in their beefed-up six-year plan,” McDermed said. “What if the beefed-up six-year plan is all sucked up by all these bridges. There’s going to be a lot of unhappy legislators that thought they were going to get some roads.”
The audit wasn't limited to bridge inspections. It also found issues with the management of IDOT property, fund transfers and how the state agency handled outdoor advertising close to the state’s highways.
The audit found that bank accounts administered by a management company had authorized signors who were not state employees, cash deposits were uncollateralized, and there was no IDOT approval of some spending.
The report also found IDOT wasn't in compliance with reporting requirements. No master plan was filed at the end of fieldwork. The department also did not publish the Multimodal Multi-year Improvement Program during fiscal years 2017 and 2018. Another report for a multi-year plan was delivered 195 days later than it was due.
A separate audit found that 20 percent of IDOT employee overtime cards tested during the audit period hadn't been properly signed to attest for accuracy. The department spending a combined $63.7 million on overtime for the two years ending June 30, 2018.
Other findings included that about a third of tested IDOT vehicle trip tickets didn’t have supervisor approval or other proper trip documentation. Yet another found that 47 percent of outdoor advertising near highways might be illegal.
"We are still reviewing the audit report released earlier today," IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell said Thursday. "The Illinois Department of Transportation is committed to improving efficiencies and operations throughout the agency and appreciates this opportunity to do so."
IDOT spent a combined $10.4 billion in fiscal years 2017 and 2018, according to the reports. The department's employee headcount went from 4,857 in 2017 to 4,950 in 2018. In the two years that were audited, IDOT maintained or improved 180 bridges. For fiscal year 2017, 17 percent of roads were in need of repair. In fiscal year 2018, that climbed to 22 percent of roads. The audit also showed there were 2,138 traffic deaths in Illinois over those two years.