File Photo – Shell Gas Station (Route 45 and Peterson Road in Libertyville). | Photo: Google Street View.

The Lake County Board approved an ordinance that will add a four-cent-per-gallon gas tax to address a $1.7 billion transportation project backlog in the county.

The new ordinance will provide an estimated $10 million dollars each year in new transportation infrastructure investments.

Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart said the investment will allow the county to address “critical transportation needs” that residents have been asking about.

Those include railroad grade separations, road widenings, safer turn lanes and other improvements which will aim to reduce congestion, carbon emissions and improve traffic safety.

“Many of these projects, if left unaddressed, pose significant traffic congestion and safety issues,” Hart said.

The ordinance goes into effect July 1 and all of the revenue will stay in Lake County. It is required to be solely dedicated to improving the county’s transportation system.

In 2019, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law a $45 billion infrastructure plan, which included doubling the gas tax from 19 cents per gallon to 38 cents per gallon.

As part of that law, counties were allowed to increase their 4-cent-per-gallon tax up to eight cents.

Lake County was the last county in the Chicago area to enact the motor fuel tax.

DuPage, Kane and McHenry counties adopted a four cents per gallon motor fuel tax after an Illinois law was passed in 1989. In 2019, Will County enacted its four cents per gallon motor fuel tax and in December 2020 DuPage County raised its motor fuel tax to eight cents per gallon.

Lake County Board Member Dick Barr, who opposed the tax, said that the tax will hurt lower-income residents the most.

“Since they are tied to consumption and not income or value, they disproportionately affect the hardest working, longest commuting, lowest-income members of the county,” Barr said.

He also said that there is uncertainty with the pandemic and lack of data showing where Lake County residents sit financially.

Several of the board members who opposed the ordinance said they received hundreds of comments from residents that were mostly against the measure.

During a March 3 meeting, there were 30 minutes of public comment, which consisted mostly of residents who opposed the tax.

Lake County Board Member Carissa Casbon said that jobs created from the gas tax would be a crucial part of the economic recovery in Lake County.

Bill Durkin, Lake County Public Works, Planning and Transportation Committee Chair, had similar comments.

“An investment in infrastructure not only improves our transportation system, but will also aid in our region’s recovery by enhancing economic development and allowing us to attract and retain more jobs,” Durkin said.

“These funds will go directly to projects that ensure you spend less time driving to work, waiting for a train, sitting at a red light, and thinking about the dangerous left-turn on your way home,” he added.