Oh Just Another Report Telling Us How Much Illinois Roads Completely Suck, Still

Illinois — Let’s just be completely upfront and frank here if we can. Illinois roads completely suck. We’re not even the only ones who feel that way either so don’t get huffy and puffy with the news. Millions of other drivers like us already know that Illinois roads suck. In fact, we can’t even remember a time over the past few decades where this hasn’t been true of Illinois roads.

But as if we needed another reminder, a new study has come out telling us once again how much our roads in the State completely suck. The folks who compiled the report (TRIP) have determined that driving on Illinois roads that are deteriorated, congested and that lack some desirable safety features costs Illinois drivers a total of $16.4 billion each year.

That’s Billion with a B.

That means in addition to all the other ways Illinois citizens pay for our roads, we have to dish out an extra $16.4 billion because, well, we actually don’t really know why.  But hey, who doesn’t like a little reminder of how much money we citizens have to dish out because of our crappy roads.

The group TRIP calculated the cost to the average motorist in the state’s largest urban areas in the form of additional vehicle operating costs (VOC) as a result of driving on rough roads, the cost of lost time and wasted fuel due to congestion and the financial cost of traffic crashes. Here’s what it looks like.

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The report dated March of 2018 says that due to inadequate state and local funding, more than one of every three miles of major urban roads and highways in Illinois are in poor or mediocre condition. It states the condition of state-maintained roads and bridges in Illinois is anticipated to decline through 2023 based on current funding.

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It’s not just roads either. Nine percent of Illinois’ bridges are structurally deficient, meaning there is significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components. The condition of state maintained bridges in Illinois is anticipated to decline through 2023 based on current funding.

Additionally, congested roads choke commuting and commerce and cost Illinois drivers $8.2 billion each year in the form of lost time and wasted fuel. Drivers in the state’s largest urban areas lose thousands of dollars and as much as two-and-a-half days each year in congestion, the report states.

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It’s not just money its costing you either. It’s costing Illinois residents lives. Nearly 5,000 people were killed in traffic crashes in Illinois in the last five years, according to the report. Traffic crashes in which roadway features were likely a contributing factor imposed $4.7 billion in economic costs in 2016. roads 5

None of this takes into account the State of Illinois diversion of transportation funds. According to the Institute for Illinois’ Fiscal Sustainability the issue of transportation diversions is important because of Illinois’ ongoing financial crisis, which has left the State with a growing pile of unpaid bills and without a complete budget since FY2015.

They say limiting access to transportation-related revenues such as motor fuel taxes and motorist user fees could put additional strain on the State’s general operating resources, consisting mainly of income taxes and sales taxes, and similarly affect local governments.

According to proponents, $6.8 billion of revenue was diverted from State transportation funds between FY2002 and FY2015 due to waste and mismanagement in Springfield. The figure has been used in a State-wide public education campaign by proponents and cited in many published reports.

The $6.8 billion number comes from the Transportation for Illinois Coalition, an organization including roadbuilders, trade unions and business groups that has pushed the amendment. The chart below, based on data from the Coalition, shows the breakdown of the diversions by year, with amounts ranging from $172 million in FY2014 to $783 million in FY2004.


Supporters have said the $6.8 billion represents money that State officials have raided or swept from transportation funds. Fund sweeps involve the transfer of excess money to the State’s main operating account from other funds to help reduce budget deficits. The State has also used chargebacks, which are transfers intended to defray State operating costs.

In the newer calculations, diversions average about $169 million per year, excluding the sweeps in FY2015. These include motorist user fees collected by the Illinois Secretary of State for vehicle registrations, driver’s licenses, certificates of title and other services and deposited into the General Revenue Fund. The diversions also include the facilities management fee paid by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to the Department of Central Management Services and a transfer from the Motor Fuel Tax Fund to the Vehicle Inspection Fund to pay for emissions testing by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

Which spending counts as a transportation diversion has been a thorny issue for many years. An audit report in May 2013 by the Illinois Auditor General found that less than half of the $25.1 billion in Road Fund spending in eight of the ten years between FY2003 and FY2012 went for direct road construction costs. In that report, non-direct road construction spending included salaries for IDOT workers and debt payments on bonds used to finance road construction.

TRIP calculated the additional cost to motorists of driving on roads in poor, mediocre or fair condition. When roads are in poor, mediocre or fair condition – which may include potholes, rutting or rough surfaces – the cost to operate and maintain a vehicle increases. These additional vehicle operating costs (VOC) include accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional -vehicle repair costs, 7 increased fuel consumption and increased tire wear. TRIP estimates that additional VOC borne by Illinois motorists as a result of deteriorated road conditions is $3.5 billion annually, or an average of $414 per driver. The chart below details additional VOC per motorist in the state’s largest urban areas.

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In their report TRIP states that the health and future growth of Illinois’ economy is riding on its transportation system. Each year, $2.9 trillion in goods are shipped to, from and within Illinois, mostly by truck. Projected increases in passenger and freight movement will place further burdens on the state’s already deteriorated and congested network of roads and bridges. By 2045, total freight tonnage being shipped in, out and within Illinois is projected to grow by 40 percent, with 70 percent of the added tonnage moved by truck.

The design, construction and maintenance of transportation infrastructure in Illinois supports 154,001 full-time jobs across all sectors of the state economy. These workers earn $6.5 billion annually. Approximately 2.6 million full-time jobs in Illinois in key industries like tourism, manufacturing, retail sales, agriculture are completely dependent on the state’s transportation infrastructure network. Each dollar spent on road, highway and bridge improvements results in an average benefit of $5.20 in the form of reduced vehicle maintenance costs, reduced delays, reduced fuel consumption, improved safety, reduced road and bridge maintenance costs and reduced emissions as a result of improved traffic flow.

Founded in 1971, TRIP ® of Washington, DC, is a nonprofit organization that researches, evaluates and distributes economic and technical data on surface transportation issues. TRIP is sponsored by insurance companies, equipment manufacturers, distributors and suppliers; businesses involved in highway and transit engineering and construction; labor unions; and organizations concerned with efficient and safe surface transportation.

You can view the full March 2018 report below.

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