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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chicago region transportation leaders warn of consequences to expired funding

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Leaders from the Transportation for Illinois Coalition (TFIC) and Regional Transportation Authority called on Congress to act now on extending national transportation funding ahead of a Friday deadline that, if missed, could put the region's transportation system and entire economy in limbo. 

TFIC, an umbrella organization of labor, business and construction groups, and the RTA, the oversight planning organization for the CTA, Metra and Pace, have pushed hard for a long-term, responsible transportation spending program from Washington, D.C., the entire first quarter of this year. The latest funding extension expires March 31, and the House and Senate are still at odds over how to address the issue. 

The TFIC and the RTA outlined their support of the Senate-approved answer in a memo to House members. But TFIC members and RTA officials, at a news conference in Chicago, made clear there must be some action soon to avoid potentially serious complications from allowing the current program to lapse.

The cessation of funding on April 1 could have the following impact: 
The halting of numerous infrastructure upgrades on Metra, Pace and the CTA, adding to delays and "slow zones" for commuters;
IDOT could have to delay payments to contractors; the large June bid letting for state construction projects could be wiped out, creating huge job losses and economic impact;
the federal Highway Trust Fund, could lose $100 million a day in user fees.

"As the economy fights to recover, more and more Americans are using public transit systems to get to and from work. The time has come for Congress to pass a bipartisan measure that invests in mass transit, jobs and the success of Illinois economy. Any lapse in funding would be devastating for public transit in our region, costing transit $1.2 million per day," said RTA Executive Director Joseph Costello.

"Transportation is critical to our economy's success, and we will see just how important it is in the most painful of ways if we let this funding lapse," said TFIC co-chair Doug Whitley, president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.

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