We are hearing more and more about the potential for the state to pass a transportation capital program this year. I am fielding more and more questions (and comments) about what has been happening with the existing money.
Short answer for township roads? A lot less than we were able to do 19 years ago. Why? Township roads comprise 49.5 percent of our Illinois public road system. They receive a percentage share of only Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) paid at the pump by motorists and collected by the state. The current percentage has been in place since Jan. 1, 2000, however, MFT itself has remained at 19 cents per gallon, with an additional 2.5 cents per gallon on diesel, since Jan. 1, 1990.
As a result, MFT to township roads has actually fallen from $98.6 million in 2000 to $92.6 million in 2018 while traffic, particularly agricultural traffic, has increased substantially in volume, size and weight.
Costs to provide basic maintenance to protect and preserve the township road system increased 139 percent from 2000 to 2014, meaning 2014 costs were 2.39 times the 2000 costs. MFT decreased 1.3 percent over that same period resulting in a 59 percent loss in purchasing power. This means only 4.1 miles of township road could be maintained in 2014 for every 10 miles maintained in 2000. The remaining 5.9 of every 10 miles suffered from neglect. Now in 2019, the picture has only worsened.
Reality is township roads are deteriorating back towards gravel and eventually, native earth. Generations before us invested heavily with their time, energy and yes, money, to build the seamless network of public roads that benefit us today. We aren’t investing enough to simply maintain them. What are we leaving for future generations?
Charlie Montgomery, president,
Township Highway Commissioners of Illinois