No easy answers seen for how to fund DuPage County transportation needs
The need for a reliable road and rail network in DuPage County is a top priority, but the discussion on how best to fund transportation is challenging amid the backdrop of Illinois’ budget crisis, said Rep. Jeanne Ives.
“A steady revenue source for infrastructure is what is important for labor, the people who have to plan for infrastructure, and for businesses and taxpayers who understand that there’s going to be money available to fill potholes and repair Metra and Chicago Transit Authority (CTA),” Ives, a Republican representing Illinois’ 42nd district, said.
Ives took part in a listening session on Monday with DuPage County residents to discuss the state’s infrastructure needs. The Illinois Department of Transportation, in cooperation with the Illinois Capital Development Board, is sponsoring a series of sessions across the state in order to present Gov. Bruce Rauner with a package of infrastructure recommendations.
The discussions about how to pay for transportation are difficult amid the backdrop of a cash-strapped state government. Illinois is grappling with a $6 billion budget deficit for the upcoming fiscal year.
“The state is broke. We’re $6 billion in debt. We can’t fund our most needy, we’re cutting education funding … and now we can’t even reform pensions. People don’t understand that we’re in crisis,” Ives said.
How to fund transportation initiatives is a “bone of contention,” Ives said. Discussions have included the concept of moving away from funding transportation projects with gas taxes and toward a revenue model based on implementing a tax per mile traveled in light of more fuel efficient vehicles traveling roads and using less gas.
“You can’t talk about taxing per mile without also looking at how much does the state come in and subsidize Metra and CTA,” Ives said. “Anybody who uses Metra is helping to decrease road congestion, so we have to recognize that in a positive way.”
We need to have a real conversation about how much taxpayers should be supporting a Metra rail tax, a CTA tax, and what roads are we funding down state versus when all the congestion is in the northeast section (of the state), and how do you alleviate that congestion,” Ives said.
Expanding the network of roads in the county in order to free up bottlenecks is important, as is improving the Metra rail system and the BNSF line through Naperville.
“Folks there are willing to pay. They are just tired of not having a reliable time frame with knowing when they are going to get downtown,” Ives said.