In Transit: Would you pay more for gas to fix the roads?
Sure, no one likes potholes, but are you willing to pay more for gas and registration fees to fill one?
The question is among suggested trade-offs in Gov. J.B. Pritzker's ambitious $41 billion capital plan, but everything's fluid as state lawmakers prepare for a frenzied week of hardball negotiations before the legislative session ends Friday.
"The governor is working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to finalize a plan to repair our roads, bridges and schools across the state," spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said.
To sweeten the tax-palooza in the suburbs, the state would widen the choked-up Route 47 in McHenry County for $57 million and dedicate $1 billion to rebuild I-80 and the Des Plaines River bridge in Will County.
"There is no question we need Route 47 done," McHenry County Chairman Jack Franks said. "It should have been done years ago."
There's also $2.87 billion for the Regional Transportation Authority that funds Metra, Pace and the CTA. That's about 10 percent of the transportation revenue pie if the plan passes -- a pittance to what Chicago and the suburbs actually need, RTA Chairman Kirk Dillard says.
"Mass transit moves over 30 percent of the state's workers so accordingly the Chicagoland and Illinois Chambers believe at least 30 percent of the new transportation funds should be dedicated to transit," said Dillard, a former state senator from Hinsdale.
Abudayyeh noted that "investing in infrastructure is a critical need and will create more than 500,000 jobs throughout the state and keep our residents safe."
As dramatic proof that Illinois' infrastructure is on the brink, look no further than the closure of north Lake Shore Drive in Chicago this February when a steel beam cracked.
Meanwhile, the aged I-80 bridge over the Des Plaines River in Will County is in structurally "intolerable condition," according to an IDOT report. "I wouldn't drive on it," said Illinois tollway Director James Sweeney, chief of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, which has lobbied for a rebuild.
As of last week, a preliminary capital plan from the governor's office that was leaked suggested 70 percent of revenues dedicated to highways and transit; 25 percent for improving college and school buildings and state facilities; and the remainder for environmental projects, broadband expansion and other needs. The proposal estimates generating $41.5 billion in revenues to fund capital projects over six years.
To pay for this, recommendations include raising gas taxes by 19 cents a gallon; spiking registration fees between $199 for newer vehicles and $109 for older models; hiking registrations for electric vehicles from $17 a year to $250; taxing ride-shares such as Uber; taxing cable, satellite and streaming services, plus slapping state taxes on parking garages and adding more video gambling taxes.
But everything could change when lawmakers return to the sausage-making this week. A fight over legalizing sports betting, whether to include "vertical construction" (school and other buildings) in the capital plan, and the unpopularity of a streaming tax could combust and result in a downsized program, insiders said.
"It's still a work in progress," said Democratic state Rep. Marty Moylan of Des Plaines, a House Transportation Committee member. "Every time it changes, they lose votes or they add votes."
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You should know
If you're concerned about the Canadian National Railroad's plan to construct a 4.27-milelong second track adjoining the existing mainline track between Hoffman Estates and Elgin, mark your calendar for Thursday. A public meeting will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at Timber Trails Elementary School, 1675 McDonough Road, Hoffman Estates. Officials from CN and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which must approve the project, will be on hand to answer questions.
Sorry Elgin, IDOT workers are constructing an entrance ramp from northbound Randall Road to eastbound Route 20, which means intermittent lane closures next week. The project includes resurfacing, adding rumble strips and drainage upgrades. Construction will last until July 2020.
Speaking of boosting registration fees for electric cars -- not so fast, writes Steve Duenser of Arlington Heights. "Electric car owners already pay 'fuel' taxes via their electric bills," he said. "The proposal to implement additional taxation on electric vehicles would favor combustion vehicles that are more polluting and less efficient." More equitable ideas might include basing registration fees on vehicle weight and diverting electricity taxes to transportation, Duenser thinks.
Uncertain if you installed the kid's car seat correctly? Make sure at upcoming events where Illinois State Police will check and reinstall if necessary. Kids Identification and Safety Seat forums, where experts will also provide ID cards for children, will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 1, at the Kohl Children's Museum, 2100 Patriot Blvd., Glenview, and June 8, at the Lake Forest Oasis on the Tri-State Tollway.