Is a gas tax increase the key to solving the dilapidated road problem in Illinois?

CHICAGO —The shutdown of a portion of Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive Monday put the focus on the problem of dilapidated roads and bridges across Illinois. 

What is it going to take to fix the problem? Some say the solution lies in a gas tax.

Currently, drivers are paying 19 cents a gallon in a state gas tax. That money is supposed to fund roads and bridges in Illinois. That number, 19 cents, was established in 1990 and hasn’t budged a penny since.

Fuel efficiency, inflation and lack of legislation action on the issue has some convinced the state’s gas tax is running out of steam.

The latest records show the average Illinois driver pays $158 per year in gas taxes. That is nearly 30 percent less than what they were paying 20 years ago, and Illinois’ roads are paying the price.

Mary Craighead of Illinois Economic Policy Institute said Monday’s damage on Lake Shore Drive “is an example of the entire state of ill and the maintenance that is needed across the state.”

“Increasing a tax of any kind is not very popular and never is going to be,” she said.

But Indiana took the bold step in 2017 and increased their gas taxes by 10 cents a gallon to pay for work and repairs to its infrastructure. By 2024, that now 29 cents a gallon with annual increases along the way will amass $1.2 billion to go toward the roads.

The Illinois Economic Policy Institute is hoping for a transportation bill. Gov. Pritzker has referred to the possibility of a capitol bill but no clear timeline on it has been released.

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