(The Center Square) – With the federal infrastructure bill set to send Illinois at least $17 billion for roads, bridges and transit projects, Illinoisans can expect to pay more for less.
The Reason Foundation’s 26th annual Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness report is out and Illinois has dropped 12 spots in the past five years to 40th overall.
Researcher Baruch Feigenbaum said Illinois does well in low fatality rates, but it’s a mixed bag for spending. Pavement conditions are toward the bottom as is congestion in urban settings.
“Not the worst in any one category, certainly not the best in any one category, but trending average to below average for most of the categories which explains the ranking of 40th,” Feigenbaum said.
There are 13 categories overall each state is scored on.
Illinois taxpayers spend $123,500 per state-controlled mile of highway, ranking 39th for total spending per mile.
“I would say overall they’re getting relatively bad bang for their buck because there’s a relatively high level of spending and also relatively poor pavement conditions,” Feigenbaum said. “Given the cost of Illinois, we know that the spending is going to be a little high but the quality of the roads and bridges should match and it doesn’t.”
The state is in line for at least $17 billion over several years from the recently enacted federal infrastructure bill.
“We have dollars coming to Illinois from the federal infrastructure bill,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Tuesday. “That helps speed up all of the projects on our multi-year plan.”
That multi-year plan Pritzker enacted in 2019 doubled the state’s gas tax and increased other fees on drivers to pay for infrastructure.
Numbers from the Illinois Comptroller’s office show nearly $1.4 billion in motor fuel taxes for fiscal year 2019. That increased to $2.3 billion the following year and to nearly $2.4 billion for fiscal year 2021. So far this fiscal year, the state has collected nearly $900 million since July 1.
Private vehicle use taxes also increased from $53.1 million in FY2019 to $61.6 million in FY2021. So far this fiscal year, $25.6 million has been collected.
While Reason's most recent report only covers through fiscal year 2019, it doesn’t include a doubling of the state’s gas tax. Feigenbaum said Illinois needs to get control of the cost per mile so it doesn’t repeat New Jersey’s doubling of a gas tax without improving pavement conditions.
“It’s really important both for the increasing of the gas tax and for the federal infrastructure bill that the state has a process for actually spending that money wisely,” Feigenbaum said.