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Help level the playing field for Illinois walk/bike funding this weekend

As it stands, lower-income Illinois municipalities, such as south-suburban Dolton, have obstacles to getting their fair share of transportation infrastructure, especially walking and biking facilities. Two new bills seek to address that. Photo: John Greenfield

Currently there's a highly unfair situation when it comes to Illinois state funding for driving, walking, and biking infrastructure. But a new bill under consideration in the state legislature could help fix the problem. But if you want to support the legislation, you need to take action by this Monday.

As the Active Transportation Alliance recently noted, as it stands, when the Illinois Department of Transportation is rebuilding a road, the state covers all the car infrastructure costs. But if there's going to be a new accommodation for walking or biking, such as a sidewalk, bike lanes, or a side path, state law currently requires the local municipality is required to chip in one-fifth of the money for that infrastructure.

Obviously that rule prioritizes driving over walking and biking. But it also helps reenforce inequities in who gets to live in walkable, bikable communities. While wealthier cities, suburbs, and towns may not have any problem coming up with that 20 percent match, decision-makers in municipalities with tighter budgets are more likely to decide that they can't afford to contribute money for pedestrian and bike facilities.

The end result is that lower-income Illinoisans are more likely to live in communities where streets and roads are dangerous for walking and biking. And state roads are especially key for transportation because they often are the only way for residents to access key destinations like workplaces, schools, retail, and healthcare.

House Bill 270, sponsored by State Representative Anna Moeller (43), would remove the requirement for the local match for pedestrian and bike infrastructure on IDOT roads. It's slated to be discussed in committee on Monday, March 1. Learn more about the bill in here.

How to get involved

You can voice your support for the legislation by filling out a witness slip online by this Monday. During the hearing that day, the chair will read the testimony, which will inform lawmakers' decisions on the bill.

Tips for filling out a witness slip:

    • Identification: If you are representing an organization as an employee, include the name of that organization in the “firm/business” field. Otherwise add “self.“
    • Representation: If you are representing a group, organization, or business, also add the name of that entity here. (Make sure it's OK with the entity for you to do that.) Otherwise, enter “self” or “n/a.”
    • Position: Select “proponent.”
    • Testimony: Choose “record of appearance only,” agree to the terms, and then click “create slip.”
    • Confirmation: Once your witness slip is submitted, you’ll see a confirmation message and receive an email.

House Bill 253 would establish more transparency and equity in transportation funding

In other Illinois transportation legislation news, several state legislators, including two Chicago Democrats, are pushing for a bill that would create more transparency when it comes to how projects are are selected and planned, WGEM reported. House Bill 253 would create a transportation performance program with the goal of better representing communities of color and rural municipalities, they say.

"We need to rectify this inequity if we're really going to give communities of color, give folks from rural communities, the best opportunity to provide for their families and contribute to their local economies," said bill co-sponsor State Senator Ram Villivalam (8th). He noted that as it stands, wealthier and whiter communities have an edge when it comes to winning state transportation dollars.

Under the new bill, it would be easier for citizens to find out which projects are funded by the state and why, Villivalam said. "We need a transportation and infrastructure system that allows people to access to services they need. That's why people come to Chicago, Cook County, the state of Illinois in the first place and we need to go back to that."

Learn more about House Bill 253 here.

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