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National Editorial & Columnists

Funding process for transportation worth the debate

Roads, bridges, railroads must not fall into disrepair

As the pool of money available for Illinois to repair its aging roads and bridges continues to shrink, a coalition of transportation experts is asking residents to consider what safe highways, bridges, and rails are worth to them.

Are Illinoisans willing to pay more at the gas pump and in vehicle fees to ensure potholes are filled, highways are replaced, and bridges and rail systems are repaired?

It’s a question worth asking and a debate worth having.

Infrastructure throughout the United States – including such systems as roads and bridges, pipelines, the power grid, and levees – is aging and, in some cases, crumbling around us. Experts say the problem is at a near-critical point, but the costs to rebuild the country’s networks could run in the trillions of dollars.

Illinois, with the country’s third-largest interstate system and third-largest bridge inventory, is not immune.

According to the Transportation for Illinois Coalition, a private group of transportation experts, engineers, laborers and others, the state needs at least an additional $1 billion a year to maintain, repair, and replace Illinois’ transportation infrastructure.

The thing is, coalition members say, government is struggling across the board – federal, state, and local. Contributing to the problem is that the state’s Motor Fuel Tax revenue has fallen 11 percent since 2007 as cars have become more fuel-efficient.

So, they say, that leaves Illinoisans, who regularly use roads, bridges, and rail every day, to step up and fill the void on a “pay-as-you-go” basis.

The coalition and lawmakers will seek public input on the issue in the coming months. We want to know what you think. Is this a fair request? Can your wallet handle it? Do you agree the situation is dire, and what price are you willing to pay for safe roads and bridges?

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