Banner month for transportation in Chicago
August has been a banner month for MPC’s transportation program and the region’s transportation network:
On Aug. 25, the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority Board (Tollway) approved not only a 35-cent toll increase to support its comprehensive capital plan – which will create more than 120,000 permanent jobs and give the state’s economy a badly needed $21 billion shot in the arm – but also a resolution calling for implementing congestion pricing on Illinois toll roads.
On Aug. 22, Gov. Pat Quinn signed HB 1091, a bill MPC has been pushing for five years that enables the Illinois Dept. of Transportation and the Tollway to use public-private partnerships to finance new transportation infrastructure.
And on Aug. 17, at a packed luncheon at the Union League Club, MPC released recommendations for a 10-route Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network in Chicago. The Chicago Transit Authority is soon beginning work on an alternatives analysis for BRT along Western and Ashland avenues, and MPC will be working with Active Transportation Alliance to do extensive outreach along that corridor.
According to MPC’s 2008 report, excess congestion costs the region $7.3 billion annually in wasted time, fuel, and environmental damages, and due to these losses, businesses forgo creating some 87,000 jobs per year. Each of this month's “wins” represent a leap in the right direction, toward busting gridlock, making better use of our existing roads, and improving communities and our economy.
MPC enthusiastically supports the Illinois Tollway’s capital plan. The Tollway has proposed an innovative, responsible plan to repair roads that have reached the end of their useful life; expand where people and jobs are demanding new connections, such as the Elgin O’Hare Western Bypass; and make the most of our entire transportation network by collaborating with partner agencies to explore mass transit and managed lanes on toll roads. The 35-cent toll increase, the first for most Tollway users since 1983, is more than a fair price to pay to maintain and modernize our roads and transit, allowing businesses to grow and families to save time and money, further stimulating the economy.
One tool that will allow the Tollway to ease traffic in Chicago is congestion pricing. It gives people options: to pay a fee to drive on a traffic-free road, to travel on an alternative route, or to take transit. Following our July 2010 report The Road Less Traveled: Exploring Congestion Pricing in Chicagoland, MPC has been partnering with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and the Tollway to identify next steps for congestion pricing in northeastern Illinois, and we commend the Tollway Board for voting to implement this strategy, which will maximize the use of existing roads.
By approving the Public-Private Partnership for Transportation Act, Gov. Quinn and the Illinois General Assembly have opened up new doors for Illinois to grow its transportation network to meet demand. Billions of dollars in regionally significant transportation projects – such as the West Loop Transportation Center, a bus rapid transit network, and the Elgin O’Hare Western Bypass – have been on the backburner because funds for building new infrastructure projects simply are not available. This landmark legislation allows the state to partner with the private sector to maintain and expand roads and transit connections, create jobs, and keep Illinois moving.
Kudos to our elected and appointed officials, transportation agencies, and partners who have helped achieve these milestones. Here’s to a fall that’s as productive as this summer has been!
Read MPC's statement commending Gov. Quinn and the Illinois General Assembly for approving HB 1091. >>
Read MPC President MarySue Barrett's recent blog post supoprting the Tollway's plan. >>
Read MPC's report Bus Rapid Transit: Chicago's New Route to Opportunity. >>