Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Hinz: What's at stake for Chicago in transportation budget battle?

According to Greg Hinz, there is a coming fight over transportation infrastructure in Washington. Perhaps this might mean the difference between getting various transit projects done and I would include for example the Red Line extension:
At issue, potentially, for the Chicago area is everything from building western access to O'Hare International Airport and rebuilding hundreds of miles of crumbling roads and bridges, and maintaining and maybe even expanding service by the Chicago Transit Authority and Metra, to freeing up the region's often-blocked freight-rail system and keeping interstate passenger trains rolling.

Metropolitan Chicago now is heavily reliant on the U.S. government to help pay for those kinds of items, and unlike with most federal spending, we actually do pretty well with federal transportation money. The Chicago area now gets $612 million a year from the feds for highway and transit funding, more than any other metropolitan area except New York, according to a new report out today by Transportation for America, a Washington-based group that supports increasing federal funding for transportation.

But unless Congress soon passes a new multi-year appropriations bill, all of that will be in at least some danger. The money won't totally disappear, but any new projects will be delayed, indefinitely. And current funds won't cover all ongoing projects, much less new ones.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, the core problem is that per-gallon taxes on gasoline that fund road and transit work are running short. But Congress has been unable to bring itself to come up with another revenue source, leading to cut-and-paste temporary solutions, the latest of which runs out this summer.
Interested in transportation funding, this is one article to get you up to speed on this subject.

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