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IDOT Secretary: Electric vehicle drivers shouldn't expect a 'free ride' on Illinois roads

Tim Shelley
Illinois Secretary of Transportation Omer Osman speaks at the Illinois News Broadcasters Association's spring convention at the Pere Marquette Hotel in Peoria on Saturday, May 7, 2022.

Electric vehicle users will eventually need to ante up their fair share for road maintenance as more motorists make the switch away from gasoline. But exactly how EV drivers will pay is still an open question in Illinois.

State gasoline taxes currently fund a large chunk of Illinois' road and bridge projects, which includes the $45 billion Rebuild Illinois capital plan. Among the goals of that program is building out the state's electric vehicle usage - and the infrastructure to support it.

"At some point in time down the road, maybe gradually, as the electric vehicle takes over, then someone's gotta come up with a different mechanism for us," said Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Omer Osman during a roundtable discussion Saturday at the Illinois News Broadcasters Association convention, hosted at the Pere Marquette Hotel in downtown Peoria.

Osman said IDOT is tasked with designing infrastructure not only electric vehicles in mind, but also concepts like autonomous vehicles and platooning.

"All that is going to have to fit together. All that is going to require trillions of dollars," he said, noting that though electric vehicle purchases are incentivized at both the state and federal levels, users shouldn't expect a "free ride" on roadways, either.

Osman said a committee is currently looking into several options to raise revenue from EV users, including a tax at the charging station or at the point of vehicle purchase. He said Illinois is also monitoring some of the ideas under consideration in California currently.

"I think you really cannot take anything off the table," he said.

At the federal level, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said there's also action happening at the federal level to prepare for a future of electrified vehicles. That includes money in the federal infrastructure bill to upgrade the electric grid to sustain more vehicle charging, and a plan to build out charging stations around the country. He said states like Illinois executing their own electrification plans will be ahead of the curve.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.