Rebuild Illinois implements key ON TO 2050 transportation recommendations, but more reforms are needed

The 101st Illinois General Assembly concluded the first year of session with a flurry of activity, passing Rebuild Illinois, an infrastructure funding package with new revenues and a comprehensive state budget, among other initiatives. The session saw action on several ON TO 2050 recommendations including an increase of the state motor fuel tax (MFT) and its indexing to inflation; new ongoing funding for transit capital; an emphasis on multi-modal projects such as bicycle and pedestrian facilities; and authority for some local governments in northeastern Illinois to raise their own user fees. 

Arial view of vehicles at an intersection and residential housing.

This analysis discusses the revenues passed, implications for multimodal projects, and what further actions are needed. Although the legislation made laudable progress, critical work remains to ensure adequate transportation funding that will enable the region to make the level of investments required to improve overall condition and modernize the system. While some funds have been allocated to specific projects or modes, much about how these funds will be programmed remains unknown. Other funds allocated should be programmed by the State and local governments according to need and benefit. Even with all allocated funds, there is still a gap to address all infrastructure needs and truly sustain the system.

Moving forward, CMAP will identify how to include these challenges and priorities for the agency’s 2020 legislative agendas and other policy initiatives. To meet the goal of a reliable, efficient, and safe system, the region needs to focus limited resources on asset management and modernization. The infusion of additional funding into the system still falls short of the need, particularly for transit. To modernize the system and adapt to changing mobility, state and regional policy makers will have to consider revenue enhancements like congestion pricing, tolling, and securing additional transit revenues, and eventually transitioning from the MFT to a road usage charge, all of which are recommendations of ON TO 2050. 

A companion analysis examines non-transportation legislation, including “vertical” capital appropriations, enacted this summer which also affect the region’s ability to implement ON TO 2050.