Friday, December 16, 2016

Chicago, IDOT Seeking Federal Rail Construction Grants

In separate but related moves, Chicago’s City Council and IDOT are seeking federal funding for rail construction projects intended to speed up CTA light rail commuting and untangle south side rail conflicts among Amtrak freight traffic and METRA commuter lines. The City Council has rushed through a TIF district between North Avenue and Devon Avenue straddling the CTA’s red and purple line tracks. The TIF district is intended to generate $851 million in revenue dedicated to improving CTA tracks, to be used to match a federal $1.1 billion grand the City has applied for during the Obama administration’s waning days.

IDOT is seeking a federal grant of $160 million to eliminate passenger/freight rail conflicts in the 75th Street corridor near the Dan Ryan Expressway. Among other improvements, IDOT’s proposed construction would allow Metra SouthWest Service commuter trains to use the LaSalle Street station as the downtown terminal, reducing conflict and overcrowding with Amtrak and BN passengers at Union Station. IDOT thinks it can get its project approved even if consideration is delayed until after the Trump inauguration, but Chicago aldermen rushed their TIF designation through because they believe Obama’s DOT may approve their grant application, while anticipating Trump administration resistance to funding inner city transit construction.

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