With electric vehicle sales growing, how will we pay for road repairs?
Illinois' ambitious goal of putting 1 million electric vehicles on the roads by 2030 includes rebates of $2,000 to $4,000 to entice consumers to buy EVs starting July 1.
And an ongoing spike in fuel prices, averaging $5.71 a gallon in the region Sunday according to AAA, gives drivers another incentive to dump their gas guzzlers.
But with more EVs and energy-efficient cars out there, the motor fuel tax that pays for fixing roads could be running on empty in the future.
"The goal is to increase electric vehicle use in the state to reduce fossil fuel consumption, but at the same time we're cutting off our noses to spite our faces and reducing our transportation funding in the process," state Sen. Don DeWitte said.
The St. Charles Republican recently was appointed to a Blue-Ribbon Commission on Transportation Infrastructure Funding and Policy created by the Illinois legislature.
The group will brainstorm new ways of paying for road projects that don't rely on gas taxes. Composed of eight legislators and eight transportation experts to be appointed by the governor, they must deliver recommendations by Jan. 31, 2023.
Options on the table include a fee based on vehicle miles traveled, tolling, and congestion pricing, officials said.
DeWitte thinks a vehicle miles traveled tax on commercial vehicles is worth exploring.
"Trucks are the culprits when it comes to wear and tear on our road systems. Clearly, they're the heaviest vehicles that use our roads and bridges," DeWitte said.
Another idea might be to increase vehicle registration fees EV owners pay, which are $251 annually compared to $151 for conventional cars.
Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Ram Villivalam, a Chicago Democrat who sponsored the BRC bill, said members also will look at strategies to fairly allocate the billions coming from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
"The goal is to have the conversation for how we're going to achieve the revenue we need to improve and maintain our roads in five to 10 years when that electric vehicle percentage or raw number goes up and the gas tax declines inevitably," he said. "But we want to do it in a bipartisan way. We want to do it where all the stakeholders are at the table."
One thing about rebates: they continue as long as funds are available. A $4,000 incentive starts July 1, 2022; on July 1, 2026, that amount decreases to $2,000.
You should know
The Illinois tollway and Illinois State Police are restarting their popular Kids Identification and Safety Seat events after a pandemic-related pause. Experts will install children's car seats and offer advice, as well as provide photo IDs for youngsters. Up to 90% of seats are incorrectly installed, police estimate.
Activities will include emergency vehicles for kids to explore and Trooper Cooper, a talking ISP car. Future programs take place the following Saturdays: 8 a.m. to noon July 23, at the Bartlett Police Department; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 27, at the Children's Museum in Oak Lawn; and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 24, at the Itasca Fire Protection District's Family Safety Fair.
Last week's column on the Illinois secretary of state primary race included candidates' views on the $151 vehicle sticker. Reader Peter VandeMotter of Mundelein emailed to say: "I oppose a permanent reduction as it would mean a drop in revenue for needed road construction. I grant you it is an unfair tax as it costs the retired old lady who only drives 5,000 miles as much as the traveling salesman who drives 50,000. But it is needed for transportation needs, so we should keep it."
The Federal Aviation Administration will hold two forums about plans to modernize terminals at O'Hare International Airport. These comprise an in-person workshop from 6 to 9 p.m. July 12, at Monty's Elegant Banquets, 703 S. York Road, Bensenville, and a virtual session at 6 p.m. July 14. To register, go to faa.gov/airports/great_lakes/TAPandATEA.
Des Plaines-area drivers should avoid Oakton Street at the Union Pacific Railway tracks starting Monday through June 24. IDOT will be closing the railway crossing for repairs. Detours will be posted.