DECATUR — State transportation officials say this year’s 19-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase means millions more dollars to help fix aging downstate roads.
Illinois Department of Transportation engineers broke down how the money will be distributed for an audience at the Decatur Club during the Greater Decatur Chamber of Commerce breakfast Wednesday. It was welcome information for business owners and city leaders, who have long struggled with how to pay for rapidly deteriorating roads despite increasing material costs and other budget pressures.
“I supported the gas tax, primarily because I want to see our backlog of roads fixed, and the road projects that we have that are so critical to Decatur, improved,” Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe said. “It’s critical that we’re able to move freight as well as people, but what we’re really trying to do here is grow our economy and make sure IDOT knows our priorities.”
The gas tax doubled to 38 cents per gallon July 1, making it the first motor fuel tax increase since 1990. The tax was set to help fund Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s $45 billion “Rebuild Illinois” infrastructure plan.
Speakers at Wednesday’s breakfast were Jeff Myers, the engineer for IDOT’s Region 4, and Greg Lupton and Stephanie Seck of the Central Bureau of Local Roads and Streets. They described how local motor fuel tax money is divided among state and local projects according to a formula.
One bit of information they couldn’t provide: what projects are being undertaken as part of the capital plan.
“Specifics on projects that are going to be in the plan, I really can’t speak much to that until it’s released,” Myers said, adding: “I’m hopeful that will be released later this month. That’s what I was hoping last month as well.”
IDOT’s Region 4 encompasses Districts 6 and 7, home to 36,208 miles of Central Illinois roadways. The region covers a horizontal band of 31 counties — including Sangamon County — stretching from the Mississippi River to the Indiana state line.
Along with the 19-cent-per-gallon increase, state lawmakers this year added an additional 5-cent-per-gallon tax on diesel fuel. In the future, the motor fuel tax will increase annually by the consumer price index, capped at an increase of 1 cent per year.
Legislation also shifted 1% of Illinois’ sales tax on motor fuel to the road fund every year beginning July 1, 2021. For cars and passenger trucks, registration fees will go from $101 to $151 beginning Jan. 1, while electric vehicles will be charged a $248 registration annual fee, up from $35 every two years. Home-rule municipalities also have the option to set their own local motor fuel taxes.