City, suburbs seek $7 billion for transit


By Gilbert Jimenez

Date of Publication: October 4, 1999
Source: Chicago Sun-Times


Worried that the state will again fail to provide adequate transportation funding, city and suburban officials Thursday stood near a crumbling Metra railroad bridge in Morton Grove to dramatize their demand for at least $7 billion in state money for roads and mass transit.

The comments come days before Gov. Ryan is scheduled to release a report from his funding task force.

Early reports say the panel will recommend a $12 billion, five-year program divided equally among mass transit, roads and schools/quality-of-life programs. Only $6.2 billion would come from the state, with $4.2 billion for roads and transit.

The task force plan apparently envisions the receipt of about $3 billion in federal aid, with another $2.7 billion provided by local communities.

But $4 billion in state aid is nowhere near the amount needed to keep pace with the level of infrastructure deterioration, coalition members said.

"The Band-Aid approach to transit infrastructure funding ... is just not good enough," said Mary Sue Barrett of the Metropolitan Planning Council.

With her were representatives of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Business Leaders for Transportation, north suburban elected officials and commerce groups from Rolling Meadows and Northbrook.

They believe roads alone need $4 billion and mass transit at least $3 billion as the state's share--whether from bond proceeds, Illinois' fat general revenue fund or a combination of both.

Transit officials said that even $3 billion won't allow them to make all urgently needed repairs. The CTA needs $2.2 billion in state funds over five years to keep its system from rusting to a stop, said spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney.

Metra officials said the commuter rail service needs more than $2 billion, in part to replace 80 deteriorating bridges at least 100 years old. Pace has to replace hundreds of buses for which parts are no longer available.

If the state Legislature fails again to fully fund the repairs, transit services will continue to shrink and more industries will relocate out of state to areas where workers can more easily get to jobs, said Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce CEO Gerald Roper.