In May, both the Illinois House and Senate approved the Illinois Safe Roads Amendment with overwhelming bipartisan support, and the proposed policy reform will be on the ballot this November. This important amendment would ensure that public funds intended for transportation are spent on transportation by putting all revenue raised through the state’s motor fuel tax, tollways, licenses and vehicle registration fees into a protected fund known as a “lockbox”—a guarantee that’s urgently needed in the state of Illinois.
Thirty states within the U.S. already constitutionally protect transportation funding, and yet in Illinois, there are no protections to ensure that public funds earmarked for transportation are spent to protect and improve the state’s infrastructure. The advocacy group Transportation for Illinois Coalition has found that more than $6.8 billion in funds earmarked for transportation has been raided from the state’s road fund for other uses over the past 12 years.
This financial neglect of our infrastructure has resulted in half of the state’s highways and 4,200 bridges deteriorating to poor condition—a predicament that the Metropolitan Planning Council estimates will cost an additional $43 billion in funding over a period of 10 years to correct. Funding diversions do not only impact costs at the state level; they also equate to more money spent by individual drivers who must repair cars due to bad roads, a loss of over 5,000 construction jobs over the past decade, and an unfortunate increase in traffic fatalities.
The current lack of protections for the transportation budget in Illinois strains our economy, jeopardizes our safety, and endangers our quality of life. As the President of the Lake County Transportation Alliance, a public-private advocacy group created to raise awareness and build consensus on the development and implementation of transportation goals in Lake County, I join many business and community leaders in advocating for voters’ critical support of the Illinois Safe Roads Amendment during this election. It is time to protect the public interest and ensure responsible and necessary budgeting for our roadways.
Suzanne Zupec, president
Lake County Transportation Alliance