Funding Information for Tazewell County Highways

Our county highways in Tazewell County had all been HMA (Hot-Mix Asphalt) surfaces for a least a couple generations and Tazewell County should be proud to have such an elite system of county highways.  The surface maintenance program had historically consisted of milling off the aging and compromised HMA surface and placing a new 2-1/4" HMA surface.  Click here to see a map of that historical maintenance policy.  The new HMA surface used to last an average of about 15 years before the operation needed to be repeated.  This operation has historically been funded by the County's share of MFT (Motor Fuel Tax) revenue collected by the state.  The county highway funding collected from real estate tax generally covered the operational costs of the Highway Department as well as remaining maintenance necessary to ensure a safe and efficient system of county highways including such items as mowing roadsides, painting pavement markings, repairing and installing traffic control signs and lighting, fixing potholes, restoring shoulders, cleaning ditches, repairing and replacing culverts, trimming brush and trees, plowing snow, spreading salt, etc.

The state collects highway user fees from traffic on all public roads in Illinois.  This includes MVR (Motor Vehicles Revenue) paid at the Secretary of State's office for such items as vehicle registrations, driver's licenses, and certificates of title.  It also includes MFT (Motor Fuel Tax) paid by motorists at the fuel pump.  Although the state collects these highway user fees, traffic is carried by interstate routes, state highways, county highways, township/road district roads, and municipal streets.  Therefore, the state shares back with local road authorities (counties, townships/road districts, and municipalities) some of the revenue.  However, the state shares with Local Roads (local road authorities) only a percentage share of MFT, some very small special programs for Local Road needs funded at levels that have been fixed since 2000, and no percentage share of MVR.  In addition, MFT had remained stagnant at 19 cents/gallon since 1989 while MVR had been increased several times.  As a result, Local Roads' percentage share of highway user fees (MVR + MFT) paid by traffic, including traffic carried by Local Roads, had dropped dramatically in recent history.  The last increase in the local road percentage share of MFT was in 2000.  Unfortunately, our cost per mile to continue to mill and resurface our hot-mix asphalt roads in 2017 was 3.32 times our cost in 2000 while our MFT revenue had fallen 17.1% below the amount we had received in 2000.  As a result, we had lost 75% of our purchasing power to perform highway surface maintenance.  Click here for a graph of the data.  In other words, we could only afford to perform 2.5 miles of county highway surface maintenance in 2017 for every 10 miles we had performed in 2000 just 17 years earlier.

In order to preserve and protect as much pavement as possible we had added cape seal treatments and sealcoat treatments to our county highway surface maintenance program in 2015.  These treatments are less expensive which allows us to treat more needy miles of county highway thereby stretching those precious dollars further.  Unfortunately, those treatments need to be repeated more frequently and have some qualities that are less desirable than a new hot-mix asphalt surface.  The cape seal treatment is less permeable and has a less consistent overlap at the centerline than an HMA surface.  The sealcoat treatment needs to be repeated most frequently, results in a small amount of loose chips (small gravel) on the surface and along the road shoulders, and the sealcoat oil may become active and "bleed" through to the surface in very hot and humid conditions.  In essence, these treatments revert our county highway system back to an earlier point in time from generations ago before they were upgraded to hot-mix asphalt. 

By 2018, we could only afford to maintain the historical HMA mill and 2-1/4" resurface on 8 miles of our 203 miles of county highways which would have limited that treatment to our few county highways which carry an average of over 6,000 vehicles per day as you can see on a map by clicking here.  However, by decreasing the thickness of our HMA milling and resurfacing to 1-1/2", which we had already been doing for a couple years by 2018, we were able to restore our HMA surface maintenance to 47 miles of our 203 miles of county highways which you can see on a map by clicking here.  This resulted in HMA surface treatment of county highways carrying an average of over 2,500 vehicles per day.  Unfortunately, we do not expect the thinner 1-1/2" HMA milling and resurfacing to last quite as long as the 15 years we had been achieving with the historic 2-1/4" thickness.

The State of Illinois raised highway user fees MVR and MFT in 2019, a full 30 years since MFT had last been increased.  Local Roads still do not receive any percentage share of the existing MVR or the new increased MVR.  Local Roads did receive a percentage share of the increased MFT, however, their percentage share of the new MFT was much less than their percentage share of the existing MFT.  Although MFT was doubled and the Local Road share of revenue from the original 19 cents/gallon remained at 54.4% of the net revenue (after distributions and expenses off the top), the Local Road share of the new 19 cents/gallon was established at 32% of the gross revenue.  This was a result of Transit, which did not previously receive a percentage share of highway user fees (MVR or MFT), becoming a new recipient of a 20% share of the new 19 cents/gallon.

The resulting MFT revenue increase was not enough to fully restore our historic milling and 2-1/4" HMA resurfacing maintenance program for our county highways.  In fact, it would restore only 83 miles in 2020 as you can see on a map by clicking here.  However, by continuing our 1-1/2" HMA milling and resurfacing program, we plan to restore HMA surface maintenance to 170 miles of our 203 miles of county highways as you can see on a map by clicking here.  This will result in HMA surface treatment of county highways carrying an average of over 400 vehicles per day and sealcoat treatment of the remaining county highways.

We would prefer that our county highway infrastructure was properly funded in a manner that would sustain the level of service our traffic has come to expect but unfortunately that is not the case.