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Op-Ed: Metra Expansion May Encourage Sprawl

The $45 billion transportation bill approved by the Illinois Legislature ended up including more public transit funding than it originally offered, but a Kendall County Metra project raises questions.
June 20, 2019, 11am PDT | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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Chicago Commuter Rail
Rudy Balasko

Despite the fears of those who saw an earlier version of Illinois’ transportation capital investment bill, the final version approved earlier this month puts cash into the Metra, CTA, and Pace transit systems. "The bill that passed this weekend, which includes a $33 billion, six-year transportation capital program, turned out to be much better for sustainable transportation than many advocates had anticipated," according to an article by John Greenfield.

The timing of the funding is also important. Illinois has traditionally funded transit agencies through sporadic capital bills making it hard for transit operators to budget. This bill looks to address that problem. "The bill also includes long-term, sustainable funding for public transportation, with transit receiving $4.7 billion over the first six years and $281 million for each year afterwards," Greenfield reports.

Chicago’s commuter railroad agency received funds to make improvements and replace outdated equipment to bring it into a state of good repair. "The capital bill earmarks $100 million for construction of a BNSF extension beyond Aurora and into Kendall County," according to a seprate article published on Yard Social. This particular project drew criticism in the same piece, which argued that far-off Kendall county might not be the right place to push for additional rail service.

"The bill provides a significant amount of capital funds that allow our transportation agencies to put a serious dent in much-needed state-of-good-repair improvements and ongoing annual capital funds to start taking service improvements more seriously. But without a fundamental shift in how our system works — whether that’s at the individual project level or more holistically," according to the Yard Social opinion piece.

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Published on Monday, June 3, 2019 in Streetsblog Chicago
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