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Interest Group Suggests Raising Gas Tax To Improve Chicago Area Roads

CHICAGO (CBS) -- With Houston about to overtake Chicago as the third most populous city in the nation, a local planning expert has offered some bold ideas for putting the boom back in the local economy.

Metropolitan Planning Council president MarySue Barrett said one way to end the metropolitan Chicago area's stagnation is to invest more in infrastructure – like roads, bridges, and other transportation.

"Metro Chicago cannot fund itself. We have to fund this as a state. Probably about $2 billion a year is what we're behind, and the gas tax is something we should not be afraid to talk about," she said.

Barrett acknowledged there would be resistance in the Illinois General Assembly to any plan to raise the gas tax.

"If I'm talking to someone downstate, and they're saying 'Wait, you can't take money away from us,' the driver of Illinois' economy is metropolitan Chicago, and if we don't support its growth and health, we can't pay for anything in the state," she said.


According to Barrett, one reason people are leaving the Chicago area for other parts of the nation is the region's crumbling infrastructure.

"We've been behind the ball on basic investment in our roads, but even if we had kept up, we're underspending in an area where the economy is growing," she said.

Barrett said officials shouldn't be afraid to talk about raising the gasoline tax, especially with gas prices so fluid.

"Guess what, voters? None of that is going to fix the roads you drive on. It's going to the oil companies. Why don't we have a firm commitment, and a predictable one, that grows as the economy grows?" she said.

Barrett is the guest on this weekend's edition of "At Issue," airing Sunday at 9:30 p.m. on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9FM.

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