The U.S. congress authorizes bills to fund the federal highway investment programs. These funds are distributed to the local governments through the state Departments of Transportation. Certain highways in LaSalle County are eligible for federal aid. Up to 80% of the improvement cost is paid for with federal monies and must be matched by a minimum of 20% local funds. The design, associated reports, and construction must all meet strict federal criteria.
Surface Transportation Program Funds allocated to all counties in Illinois for FY2021 was $55,073,841 with $49,120,739 distributed to the 96 downstate counties.
Ten percent of this amount is divided equally among the downstate counties. The balance is allocated based upon a composite score for non-urban area, non-urban population and non-urban mileage. Using these criteria LaSalle County is ranked first among the downstate counties. LaSalle County’s allocation of FY2021 STP Rural Funds was $1,028,326.56. STP Rural Funds are the largest source of Federal-aid funds available to counties in Illinois. Annexation of large rural areas into municipalities erodes this source of funding to counties.
Under MAP-21 there is no longer a dedicated Highway Bridge Program (formerly known as HBP). Local bridge projects are now funded with Surface Transportation Program (STP) funds. IDOT has set aside 15% of the total STP allotment for use specifically on bridges. STP Bridge funds are distributed based on the square feet of deficient bridge deck on county, township and municipal systems. The use of these funds is programmed by the county engineers with the Illinois Department of Transportation. In 2020 there were 27 structures in LaSalle County eligible for STP Bridge funding. LaSalle County’s allotment for FY 2021 was $448,843. The the total allocation of STP Bridge funds to all counties in Illinois in FY 2021 was $43,272,887.
The Special Bridge Program provides federal funds for local and state bridges that meet the eligibility criteria. This is a discretionary program and all proposed projects must compete on a statewide level. LaSalle County, through the Highway Department, has captured over 16.35 million dollars from this fund in recent years for structures carrying County Highway 21 over the Fox River at Wedron ($580,000), County Highway 3 over the Fox River at Sheridan ($2,400,000), Broadway Street, Streator over the BNSF Rail Road ($1,626,000) former County Highway 58 over Somonauk Creek near Lake Holiday ($960,000), County Highway 33 over the Little Vermillion River ($1,120,000), County Highway 23 over the Vermillion River ($2,928,000), First Avenue over First Creek ($1,288,000) and N.42nd Road over Somonauk Creek, Sheridan ($1,312,000), and County Highway 5 (Sandy Ford Road) over the Vermillion River ($8,120,000), and County Highway 5 (Richards Road) over Wolf Creek ($1,184,000). These funds are being used to construct over $26 million in bridge projects. The Highway Department has submitted an application for the FY 2026 Special Bridge Program for the Leland Bridge seeking $1,336,000 in federal funds.
The Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) is a core Federal-aid funding program with the goal of achieving a significant reduction in traffic fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads. Both fatalities and serious injuries on the local roadway systems have increased. Emphasis is being placed to address these severe crashes occurring on local roadways. Highway safety improvement projects correct or improve a location or feature or address a highway safety problem that is contributing to these severe crashes on the roadway. The federal funding level is a maximum of 90 percent of the total improvement cost for HSIP projects with the local agency being responsible for the 10 percent matching funds. Past awards include $1,190,000 for intersection safety improvements at U.S. Route 52 and County Highway 2, $585,000 to improve approximately 1.25 miles of E.29th Road in Northville Township, $615,000 for safety improvements at the intersection of C.H. 4 and C.H. 15 and $320,094 for shoulder widening on curves east of Sheridan on C.H. 32. Current awards are $612,443 for intersection improvements at CH 33 and CH 43, and $189,000 for intersection improvements at CH 5 and Illinois Route 23.
State funds are distributed to the counties through the regional offices of the Illinois Department of Transportation. Types of state funds used by LaSalle County include Motor Fuel Tax (MFT), Truck Access Route Program (TARP), County Consolidated Funds, and Illinois Jobs Now Funds.
The Illinois Motor Fuel Tax fund is derived from a per gallon tax on motor fuel used by vehicles operating upon public highways and recreational watercraft operating upon the waters of the State. IDOT issues monthly warrants to the County Treasurer in the amount of the County’s share of MFT, which is based upon motor vehicle license fees and the flow chart included in this report. Illinois motor fuel tax is 19.0 cents per gallon on gasoline and an additional 2.5 cents per gallon on diesel fuel. All of the diesel fuel differential goes into the state construction fund with none distributed to local agencies. After administrative deductions approximately 84% of the 19.0 cents per gallon gasoline tax remains to be split between the state and local agencies. The local share of the balance is 54.4% with 18.27% of that going to counties under 1 million in population. Begining July 1, 2019, the Motor Fuel Tax law was amended to impose a tax increase of 19 cents per gallon on motor fuel which will be adjusted annually based on the Consumber Price Index. LaSalle County receives approximately 1.548% of this amount. The average driver traveling 15,000 miles per year and getting 20 mpg fuel economy will pay $285.00 in Illinois MFT. Of this amount approximately $0.44 will be distributed to LaSalle County. In 2020, LaSalle County collected approximately $2,508,925 in MFT. Permissible uses of MFT are set by state law and IDOT administrative policy. LaSalle County uses MFT to pay for contract maintenance and construction projects, materials, and for the majority of employee wages. All expenditures of MFT must be approved by IDOT. However, by state statute the County Engineer is a deputy of IDOT and LaSalle County operates under Agreements of Understanding which expedite the programming and use of MFT funds. Agreements of Understanding are entered into at IDOT’s discretion with counties whose County Engineer’s office has demonstrated that they are adequately organized, staffed, equipped and financed to satisfactorily discharge the duties and requirements of the Illinois Highway Code.
The County Consolidated Program Fund is derived from state revenues from vehicle registrations, vehicle title transfers and tax on alcoholic beverages. LaSalle County receives approximately $734,099 from this fund in 2020. This money must be spent under the same rules and regulations as MFT.
Truck Access Route Program funds are derived from the same sources as County Consolidated Funds and must be spent under the same rules as MFT. TARP is a competitive program that provides state monies for specific highway improvements. The funds are used to increase pavement widths and thickness and to make intersection improvements. The highways become Class II truck routes and are used to improve access for farm and commercial trucking.
County funds used by the Highway Department derived from the county property tax levy are the County Highway Fund, Special Tax Matching Fund, and County Bridge Fund. The uses and maximum rates for these levies are set by the Highway Code.
Revenues from the County Highway tax are used for the purpose of constructing and maintaining county highways including payment for lands, buildings, equipment, materials and labor for such purposes. The maximum rate without referendum for such tax is $0.10/$100. Monies derived from this tax must be deposited in the County Highway Fund and can be used for no other purpose. In 2020 the County Highway tax levy was $2,592,299.
Revenues from the Special Matching tax are used for engineering and right-of-way costs, utility adjustments, and construction and maintenance costs from federal aid projects and motor fuel tax sections on county highways. No equipment or operating costs can be paid from this fund. The maximum rate for such tax is $0.05/$100. Monies derived from this tax must be deposited in the Special Tax Match fund and can be used for no other purpose. In 2020 the Special Matching tax levy was $1,296,139.
Revenues from the County Bridge tax are used for the construction and maintenance of bridges, culverts, drainage structures, grade separations and approaches on county highways. These funds can also be used for joint projects with townships, municipalities and other counties meeting certain criteria. Monies derived from this tax are deposited in the County Bridge Fund. The maximum rate for such tax is $0.05/$100. In 2020 the County Bridge Tax levy was $1,296,139.
It is interesting to note that out of every dollar collected for property taxes in LaSalle County approximately 2 ½¢ was used for county road and bridge purposes. For example if your property tax bill in 2017 was $4,000, then approximately $100 went to the Highway Department for road and bridge purposes. Some of this is then awarded to townships and municipalities in aid for drainage projects. Approximately 40% of the County Highway Road and Bridge Budget is supported by the above referenced property tax extensions. The other 60% comes from other sources.
Other sources of revenue to the Highway Department include reimbursements from townships, municipalities and other counties for their share of joint projects; materials and services provided to other departments; and engineering fees. Additional revenues are derived from state income in lieu of property tax receipts and interest income. Additional revenues are derived from moving permits, fines, and restitution for damage.