March 24, 2021
Let’s be smart about federal transportation funding
Chicago-area organizations advocate for fix-it-first transportation funding, sound financial planning, and transparency in new reauthorization and appropriations bills.
As Congress is about to consider a multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure package, ELPC is urging local agencies and transportation leaders to focus on key priorities. We have teamed up with other Illinois organizations in calling for thoughtful proposals for the upcoming transportation reauthorization and appropriations bills. Smart investments in region-wide mobility can improve our economy and connect our communities, but it is critical that any investment in infrastructure is shaped by sound planning and transparency.
Here are some suggestions for transportation agency leaders:
Projects should support the principles of ONTO 2050, the region’s long-range transportation plan, particularly the principle of prioritized investment. ONTO 2050 calls for first addressing “the backlog of transportation, water, and other infrastructure in need of repair or replacement, opting for expansion projects only when they meet clear regional objectives.”
Projects should have a sound financial plan to ensure they can be built expeditiously and maintained/operated over their lifespan. A recent report showed over $30 million remains unspent on Illinois projects, some over 15 years old. Many lacked state and local commitment to fully fund the project, or they were not earmarked enough funding to meaningfully advance the project in the first place. Future projects should cover the completion of at least one phase of a project, and should only be made available for projects with committed long-term financial backing.
Large dollar funding designations should be reserved for projects with regional consensus that will have state-wide and national impacts. For example, past projects like the CREATE rail program, improvements to the lakefront shoreline, Union Station upgrades, and better connectivity to O’Hare imp. Future funding over $100 million should go towards projects that have been fully analyzed and vetted by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), in keeping with the region’s long-range transportation plan.
Broad-based consensus and public support is necessary for our state delegates to compete with other states for transportation funding. To all transportation agencies submitting proposals to the Illinois Delegation for consideration, we encourage you to make your proposals available for the public to review online. Transparency is essential to ensure funding is invested in projects that bring the most mobility, equity, and environmental benefits to the region.
Active Transportation Alliance, Center for Neighborhood Technology, Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, High-Speed Rail Alliance, Illinois Environmental Council, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Metropolitan Planning Council, & Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter
We will be looking closely into local proposals seeking transportation funding, ready to cheer on those that meet these criteria and call out those that do not. The Chicago region and the Midwest deserve smart mobility investments that will help improve safety, connect our communities, and support our economy.