Following a series of meetings with members of the Illinois Congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., the CTA today announced that it is seeking funding for a series of projects that will meet customer needs and help relieve regional gridlock in the future.
Congress is currently evaluating projects to submit for funding through the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) discretionary New Starts program. The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) authorized $8.2 billion in New Starts funding nation-wide through fiscal year 2003. An even higher level of funding is anticipated in the next federal surface transportation authorization beginning in 2004.
"Densely populated areas throughout the region all face the same issue ? how to decrease traffic congestion. Accommodating current transit needs are only part of the solution," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. ?Projecting growth patterns and developing a plan that provides service in key areas while best using the current infrastructure is the entire package."
Top rail projects include building the Circle Line, extending the Orange Line from Midway Airport to Ford City, extending the Red Line from 95th to 130th/Stony Island, extending the Yellow Line to Old Orchard mall, extending the Blue Line to Schaumburg, and establishing a street car and bus rapid transit system along the Ogden Avenue and Carroll Avenue corridors. The CTA will also seek the reauthorization of its Cermak (Douglas) Blue Line rehabilitation project and the capacity expansion project on the Brown Line.
"CTA's current infrastructure provides the most integrated blueprint for expanding regional public transit. It is the core system with the most potential for cost-effectively connecting to other public transit lines," said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Valerie Jarrett. ?Looking forward, enhancing CTA's current infrastructure will provide the best results in our regional effort to reduce traffic congestion."
Congressman William Lipinski, a transit advocate and ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is sponsoring four of these projects, the Circle Line, the Orange Line, the Ogden/Carroll Corridors, and the Blue Line extension to Schaumburg. The Circle Line would leverage the CTA's ongoing investment in its rail infrastructure by connecting nearly all of the city's major employment and special event destinations with CTA and Metra rail lines. This would make rail service more attractive to all transit customers and reduce travel times.
Extending the Orange Line to Ford City would complete the original Orange Line plan to provide improved access to downtown from the far southwest side and from the central city to the strong employment corridor along South Cicero Avenue.
Plans for new transit service along the Ogden Avenue and Carroll Avenue corridors would link the North Riverside Mall at Harlem and Cermak to the Chicago Central Business District and Navy Pier. It would connect several Chicago neighborhoods and three suburban communities with the 42,000-employee Illinois Medical District.
The Blue Line extension to Schaumburg would provide convenient northwest suburban access to O'Hare airport and downtown.
Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. is the sponsor of the Red Line extension. Extending the Red Line from its existing south terminal at 95th Street to a new terminal at 130th would streamline bus-to-rail connections for 13 CTA bus routes and six Pace routes and would also connect with the South Shore commuter rail line.
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky is the sponsor of the proposed extension of the Yellow Line, which would provide service to major destinations such as Old Orchard Mall, Cook County Courthouse, and adjacent office and retail developments currently just beyond the reach of the existing terminal. Expanding service would strengthen the reverse-commute flow along both the Yellow and Red Lines, and make better use of CTA's existing service capacity.
Congressman Luis Gutierrez is sponsoring the reauthorization of the Cermak (Douglas) Blue Line rehabilitation, the CTA's largest capital improvement project to date. And Congressman Rahm Emmanuel is the sponsor of the reauthorization request for the Brown Line capacity expansion project. The design work on this project will be finalized this spring and construction is expected to begin in the fall.
"We were able to accomplish a great deal in the past few years thanks to the strong support of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Congressman Lipiniski and Mayor Daley and our other legislative leaders. We look forward to continued support as we pursue these projects," said Kruesi.
The New Starts program is the federal government's primary financial resource for supporting locally-planned, implemented and operated transit capital investments. From heavy to light rail, from commuter rail to bus rapid transit systems, the New Starts program has helped to make possible hundreds of new or extended transit systems across the country. These rail and bus investments, in turn, have improved the mobility of millions of Americans, helped to reduce congestion and improve air quality in the areas they serve, and have fostered the development of viable, safer and more livable communities.
The CTA is not seeking New Start funding for another of its planned improvements?the development of an express train service to O'Hare and Midway airport. The CTA will continue to pursue that project but will seek funding through other sources.
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