A public policy group funded by local businesses wants to overhaul Illinois’ transportation policies and practices to fuel job creation and economis growth.
The recommendations of the group, Chicago Metropolis 2020, were outlined in “Building Our Economy: Transportation for a New Illinois,” released on Sunday. The group believes state officials can free up some of the estimated $100 billion spent on transportation by citizens and the private sector so it can be spent elsewhere.
“The Illinois economy from Rockford to East St. Louis has changed fundamentally in the last several decades,” chairman Donald Lubin said in the report. “If we fail to make transportation decisions that respond to those changes, our competitiveness will continue to erode.”
The state’s once predominantly agricultural economy is now dominated by a dozen metropolitan economies like the Quad Cities and Champaign-Urbana that produce 93% of Illinois’ gross state product and 90% of household income. Chicago connects the state to the global economy, the report said.
The report recommends consolidating responsibility for township roads and bridges at the county level and creating an agency to plan, fund, and coordinate freight system improvements.
It calls for redesigning and increasing investment in the Chicago-area transit system while expanding transit in smaller metropolitan areas; doubling the gas tax, with a portion going to transit projects; and expanding the use of tolling and variable pricing to manage traffic.
The report suggests that state provide rural residents with on-demand transit options to access health care, education, and employment opportunities in neighboring urban areas; establish a rail system connecting the state’s metropolitan areas; and aid the development of intermodal cargo port facilities in southern Illinois.