Determining how Illinois road money should be split between Chicago area, downstate

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning argues Illinois needs to change its formula for how it apportions road money between the Chicago area and downstate:

A deal hammered out by the state’s top politicians in the 1980s means that 45 percent of all transportation revenues go to the Chicago metropolitan area and 55 percent is allocated to downstate Illinois.

CMAP wants to change the status quo with a performance-based system using population, congestion, pollution and economic impact as criteria when it comes to doling out dollars for significant projects such as new highways, bridges and interchanges or additional lanes…

The agency points out that the metropolitan region comprises 65 percent of the population and contributes about 70 percent of the state’s income tax and 65 percent of its sales tax revenues.

Yet, in IDOT’s 2014-2019 multimodal transportation improvement program, about $3.1 billion — or 45 percent — out of $6.9 billion goes to District 1 including Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties, CMAP planners said…

“It’s a very bad idea,” said Republican Rep. Dwight Kay of Glen Carbon. “The needs of southern Illinois in terms of total miles is far greater than in the suburbs or in Chicago. I would be somewhat dismayed if not shocked to think anyone would propose changes. We have hundreds of bridges that either need to be replaced or are older and in disrepair.”

My first question is how lawmakers came to a 55/45 split in the first place. I would hope this agreement was based on some hard numbers but perhaps they were the only figures that everyone could agree on?

It sounds like the current debate would shape up like this: downstate lawmakers argue they have plenty of road miles and infrastructure to maintain while Chicago area politicians argue they put in a majority of the money and have a majority of the population. Do Illinois lawmakers even have the ability to discuss something like this even in the midst of other major money woes? Wouldn’t this simply inflame the ongoing Chicago versus downstate debate? I suspect this won’t be on the front burner even if infrastructure is a growing conversation piece around the country.

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