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Illinois transportation and transit agency revenue generated $1 billion less than expected over the past year due to pandemic-related declines in fuel consumption, sales taxes and transit ridership, according to a new study by the nonpartisan Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI).
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had costly and disruptive impacts on people, businesses, and institutions in every corner of our state,” study author and ILEPI transportation analyst Mary Tyler said in a news release. “While some sectors, including transportation, are beginning to rebound, they continue to lag well behind pre-pandemic levels.”
The state’s major transportation revenue streams — motor fuel taxes and transit system fees — registered their steepest declines in the two months immediately following the state’s March 21, 2020, stay-at-home order.
During this period, statewide vehicle miles traveled (VMT) were as much as 40% less in 2020 compared to 2019. The state’s overall VMT finished the first year of the pandemic down 15% compared with pre-pandemic levels, and ridership for various Chicago-area transit systems fell an average of between 50% and 90%. So far, neither has recovered to pre-pandemic levels.
The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act recently signed into law by President Joe Biden includes provisions that could minimize the pandemic’s near-term financial impacts on state and local governments in Illinois, as well as its transportation systems, according to the release.