Potholes big enough to cause flat tires, stacked up trains that inch along, the endless wall of red taillights on the Stevenson — these are the scenes of Illinois commuters’ nightmares.
At least half of us are annoyed by these types of transportation snafus on a daily basis, according to a recent Metropolitan Planning Council survey of Illinoisans. It shouldn’t take a disruption like the CTA Yellow Line embankment collapse to remind us — even “situation normal” is intolerable.
How did our roads, public transit, bridges and even our sidewalks get this bad? While other states have invested, Illinois hasn’t maintained what we’ve already built, much less made it easier to get around. The state gas tax, which funds highways and transit construction and repairs, has been stuck at 19 cents a gallon since 1991. Inflation has nearly halved the value of that 19 cents, and the average Illinois citizen is now contributing less than $9 a month to this vital fund. You’re lucky if that will even buy you a cheeseburger, fries and a soda. Compare that to what we pay to for cell phone, TV or internet service every month.
Accelerate Illinois (http://www.accelerateillinois.com/) is a growing movement of individuals, business leaders and advocates telling Springfield we deserve better as a city, region and state. Our traffic hassles can be solved by investing in priority projects, which also will jolt our economy back into growth mode.
How will Gov. Rauner and lawmakers respond? Lost amidst the agitation in Springfield is that the governor has emphasized the need to identify stable, dedicated revenues for transportation and to make smarter decisions about how and where to invest. And both House Speaker Michael J. Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton have consistently called for aggressive infrastructure investments.
Think of the minutes and hours we’ll reclaim, the savings we’ll pocket when we don’t hit those potholes, the small and large business owners whose confidence and commitment in Illinois will be restored — and, yes, even the lives we can save by making our transportation system a priority again. Then join Accelerate Illinois (http://www.accelerateillinois.com/) in telling our leaders in Springfield that our transportation woes can’t wait.
MarySue Barrett is president of the Metropolitan Planning Council.