Both the incumbent and the challenger in the U.S. Senate race recognize the problem with a shortfall in funds for transportation. Federal funds cover about three-quarters of the cost of large transportation projects in Illinois. Historically, highway legislation lasted five years. The most recent program, worth $105 billion, was for two years, and was to expire last month, but it was extended. “We put it off until May of next year, when we’ll address it again. The election is gonna decide who’ll sit down at the table to address it,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said.
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“I’m committed to this infrastructure. There isn’t a single thing that Congress can do that has more dramatic positive impact on the growth of the economy.” The problem is that the federal gas tax, set at 18.4 cents per gallon in 1993, is bringing in less money as vehicles gain in fuel efficiency, while at the same time, construction costs are rising. What to do? One option would be to raise the gas tax for the first time in 21 years; another would be just to say we’ll do fewer projects.
“There is a third answer that you didn’t really mention, and that is an increase in user fees – tolls on roads, and I think that should be one of the considerations as well,” said State Sen. Jim Oberweis (R-Sugar Grove), the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. Oberweis says he’s for highway work, but he isn’t set on any one funding solution.