Thursday, February 8, 2007

And Don't Forget The TFIC

The Transportation for Illinois Coalition (TFIF), a project of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, made a bit of a splash the day before the RTA and the Moving Beyond Congestion proponents released their final Report.

According to reports (e.g., here) the TFIC and the AFL-CIO have collaborated on a report recommending--surprise--an increase in funding for the Illinois transportation system. TFIF representatives spent yesterday in Springfield lobbying legislators, armed with a fact sheet and report that it has not yet seen fit to share with the public. (Unfortunately, the full report is still not available on the TFIF website.)

The Coalition recommends a $10.8 billion annual investment in the State's transportation system. This is about $5 billion more than the current annual outlay. The Coalition recommends that this new money be allocated as follows:

-- $1.8 billion for state highways
-- $340 million for local roads
-- $2 billion in Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) capital
-- $61 million, downstate transit capital
-- $400 million, RTA operating
-- $35 million, downstate transit operating
-- $100 million, Chicago Regional Environmental and Transportation
Efficiency program (easing freight rail congestion in northern
-- $6 million, state rail freight
-- $260 million, intercity passenger rail
-- $20 million, airports outside Chicago

Under this proposal, public transit will get almost exactly half of the new money. Note that the new operating subsidy for the RTA is $400 million, which is more than the $225 million in the RTA's 2007 budget, but close to what the RTA will need to close the deficit in 2009.

It is pretty incredible to think that the General Assembly will allocate half of this new money to public transit when public transit accounts for a small percentage of total trips in the State as a whole and even in Northeastern Illinois.

Both the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, the key members of TFIC, are card carrying members of the Moving Beyond Congestion group. One wonders if the MBC proponents wrote the script for TFIC. It seems a bit beyond coincidence that the MBC and TFIF propose the same amounts of new money for the RTA system: $2 billion a year in new capital money and $400 million a year in new operating money over the next five years.

Perhaps this will be the year for a transit home run if indeed business and labor heavy hitters join the MBC effort.

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