Illinois FIRST: Year 2 Progress Report - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Illinois FIRST: Year 2 Progress Report

In May 1999 the Illinois General Assembly, working with Gov. Ryan, approved Illinois FIRST (Fund for Infrastructure, Roads, Schools and Transit). This historic five-year infrastructure investment program includes $5.72 billion in increased funding directed to road and transit improvements. This report looks at progress after the first two years of the project.

In May 1999, Gov. George H. Ryan proposed, and the Illinois General Assembly approved, Illinois FIRST (Fund for Infrastructure, Roads, Schools and Transit).  This historic five-year infrastructure investment program includes $5.72 billion in increased funding directed to road and transit improvements.  Major investments in transportation infrastructure are vital to the Chicago region's continued prosperity.  Targeted investments in highways, mass transit and intercity passenger and freight rail are also vital to homeland security.  The tragic events of Sept. 11 have reinforced the need for a well functioning multi-modal transportation system.

Business Leaders for Transportation, a coalition co-led by the Metropolitan Planning Council, Chicago Metropolis 2020 and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, and representing more than 10,000 area employers, was actively involved in shaping and advocating for the transportation component of Illinois FIRST.  We commend the governor and members of the General Assembly for responding to this need.  State leaders must be prepared to act again before Illinois FIRST expires in 2004.  This second annual report reviews progress and results of the Illinois FIRST transportation program after two years (FY 2000 and FY 2001) through June 30, 2001. 

Major Findings

Illinois FIRST is generating dramatically increased resources to make public transit a viable alternative to automobile travel.

  • For FY 2000-2004, Illinois FIRST increases transit funding for northeastern Illinois by $2.02 billion, or 60 percent, to $5.25 billion.
  • Illinois FIRST provides the matching funds to obtain an unprecedented federal funding commitment of $835 million for the top five "New Start" transit projects requested by the Chicago region. 
  • Ground was broken Sept. 10, 2001 on the reconstruction of the Cermak (Douglas) branch of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Blue Line.  The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) approved a Federal Full Funding Grant Agreement in January to provide $384 million toward the $482.7 million cost of this project.  Illinois FIRST will provide $80.9 million.
  • Design work is being completed on the CTA Brown Line (Ravenswood) reconstruction, one of the five New Start projects approved lastyear.  The FTA has not yet provided a Full Funding Grant Agreement.
  • The CTA has contracted with a professional management firm to administer its capital infrastructure program.
  • For all of the region's New Start projects, the FTA has approved four out of five Full Funding Grant Agreements.  This is a record number of  New Start Full Funding Grant Agreements for any metropolitan region in the nation.
  • Examples of other major projects underway include purchase of 300 new Metra cars, overhaul of 200 CTA buses, replacement of aging railroad bridges, and structural renewal of CTAÕs oldest track sections.

Illinois FIRST is reducing the serious backlog of deficient roads and bridges.

For FY 2000-2004, Illinois FIRST increases the state's highway construction and repair program (including the local program) by $3.7 billion, or 54 percent, to $10.5 billion.  The Illinois Department of Transpor-tation (IDOT) has increased its annual program from $1.14 billion in FY 1999 to $2.3 billion in FY 2002, a 101 percent increase.

Investments in the six-county region for the second year of the Illinois FIRST include rehabilitation or replacement of 67 bridges (128 total for FY 2000- 2001), reconstruction or resurfacing 275 miles (456 for FY 2000-2001) of roads, and completion of 65 traffic congestion and safety improvements (121 for FY 2000-2001).  Major projects near completion include reconstruction of the Stevenson Expressway ($496 million spent) and elimination of the Hillside "strangler" bottleneck at Interstate 290 ($139 million spent).

"Finally the funding is catching up to the need . . . but we are just catching up. There are other needs out there that still have to be addressed."
William "Bill" Baltutis, executive director, Lake-Cook TMA (Transportation Management Association.)

Maintenance of the existing transportation system is an appropriate Illinois FIRST priority.

  • IDOT is dedicating 77 percent of Illinois FIRST highway funds toward fixing the existing system. 
  • The 2020 Regional Transportation Plan adopted by the Chicago Area Transportation Study (CATS) allocates 80 percent of projected resources to capital maintenance of the existing system, consistent with federal requirements and recommendations of Business Leaders for Transportation.  This 80 percent goal should remain our regional benchmark for the duration of Illinois FIRST. 

Coordinated efforts at the federal, state and regional levels are the only way to meet the region's mobility needs. 

  • Official forecasts predict that, even with Illinois FIRST improvements, traffic congestion will increase 40 percent by 2020.  The State of Illinois does not have adequate resources to bring public transit and roads into a state of good repair and provide the additional capacity the region will need.  After Illinois FIRST, almost 2,400 miles of roads and 850 bridges will still be in need of repair.  Repaving and patching roads are no substitute for total reconstruction.  Unless roads are rebuilt once they have reached the end of their useful life, frequent repairs mean more traffic congestion. 
  • Past underfunding has led transit agencies to defer system maintenance, worsening  infrastructure conditions.  The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) estimates an additional $3.7 billion is needed between 2000 and 2004 above and beyond current authorized funds to mantain and rebuild the transit system.
  • Based on current toll revenue, the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority needs over $1.6 billion to repair and rebuild its existing system and relieve congestion pinch points before needed improvements around O'Hare International Airport, estimated at $1.5 billion, or other expansions, can proceed.  Meeting our diverse needs will require cooperation among public and private sector leaders. 
  • Local, regional and state transportation leaders must build on past successful cooperative efforts to deliver increased federal transportation investments to our region.  We must work together over the coming year with congressional leaders to prepare for the 2003 reauthorization of TEA-21, the federal highway and transit program.  Business Leaders for Transportation also pledges to work with the next governor and General Assembly to be prepared with a new transportation program when Illinois FIRST expires in 2004.

The region's freight network needs major capital improvements.

  • About one-third of the nation's rail and overland truck cargo moves through the Chicago region.  Freight efficiency here has major national economic importance.  Freight volumes are expected to increase by 80 percent over the next 20 years, and coordinated industry and public investments will be needed to enlarge and streamline the system's carrying capacity. 
  • The total cost of public sector freight improvements needed in the region exceeds $3 billion.  Illinois FIRST allocates only $10 million for grade crossing separations, but is also funding freight infrastructure improvements for the Ford Motor Plant redevelopment on Chicago's southeast side and the Joliet Arsenal intermodal facility development.  State funds should be used to help attract federal and industry investment to create a new freight corridor in the EJ&E right-of-way, improve      problem grade crossings and upgrade 17 miles of crucial intermodal connector highways.

The single most effective transportation investment is a coordinated land use plan.

  • Congested, inefficient and costly transportation systems are the direct result of a lack of vision for a region, especially the lack of a coordinated land use plan.  Northeastern Illinois needs an integrated plan for land use and transportation to provide a framework for cost-effective infrastructure investments.
  • Metropolitan Chicago's Regional Transportation Plan now extends through 2020; by 2003 that plan will be updated and extended to 2030.  The region's transportation planning agencies agree that land use and transportation planning must be integrated with one another, as evidenced by the IDOT/CATS/RTA/Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission (NIPC) interagency agreement.  But the region today lacks a preferred land use plan.  Efforts are underway to prepare a new regional comprehensive plan.  NIPC has launched "Common Ground" initiative, intended to produce a new regional comprehensive plan by 2004.  Chicago Metropolis 2020 is preparing a Metropolis Plan for Growth and Transportation by mid-2002, using a regional land use and transportation model to identify, visualize and evaluate alternative growth scenarios.  A clear image of how and where we want the region to grow is a prerequisite to building a transportation system we can afford.

We need a comprehensive financial plan for the region's transportation network.

  • The Chicago region needs a 20 to 30 year financial plan for integrated surface transportation services to reduce traffic congestion, speed trips and support a strong economy.  We pay a price when needed investments in transit, roads, tollways and freight infrastructure are considered separately.  Comprehensive finan cial planning will enable our region to compete more effectively for federal funding, and facilitate development of innovative, market-based transportation funding strategies.

Aggressive and creative information dissemination on Illinois FIRST results is needed.
Transportation agencies should develop and provide improved information to ensure that stakeholders such as employers and local elected officials, the media and the public can easily assess the impact of Illinois FIRST.  Data should enable comparison of project results with program objectives. 

Illinois FIRST Program Summary:  Northeastern Illinois Transit Program

Illinois FIRST granted the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) the ability to issue $1.6 billion in capital improvement bonds.  Although RTA revenue supports these bonds, the state reimburses the RTA for the debt service on $1.3 billion.  These new bonds, Strategic Capital Improvement Program (SCIP) II Bonds, are added to a 1989 RTA original SCIP bond program of $500 million, which has been fully committed.  Illinois FIRST also provided IDOT with authority to provide $590 million for statewide transit programs.  With IDOT bonds and other IDOT grants, the RTA expects approximately $475 million in additional state funds, which will match federal grants through FY 2004.

"Illinois FIRST gave a lot of us mayors the tools we need to get other things accomplished. Our downtown couldn't be redeveloped without first replacing the Lake Street Metra viaduct.  People need to understand the overall benefit."
Mayor Irwin Bock of Hanover Park

The total new assistance of approximately $2 billion increases RTA's FY 2000-2004 capital program to $5.25 billion.  The program allocates $2.87 billion (54.4 percent) to the CTA, $2.08 billion (40 percent) to Metra and $294 million (5.6 percent) to Pace.

RTA has programmed all its Illinois FIRST capital funds for the five-year period.  This does not mean all of the funds are in hand and committed to a contract or expenditure.  RTA and the Service Boards (CTA, Metra, and the Pace Suburban Bus Service) are still dependent upon annual federal and state legislative appropriations and grants.  Federal and state funds for 2000 and 2001 have been received as originally programmed.  SCIP Bonds are issued annually subject to the governor's determination that RTA's unobligated balance of capital funds is not excessive.  In both 2000 and 2001 the governor approved the full issuance of the annual $260 million SCIP Bonds authorization.  Of $520 million in Illinois FIRST transit SCIP bonds approved by the governor, the RTA reports that only 16 percent $81.1 million was spent through June 2001.  However, with respect to all capital funds, RTA reports Metra obligating $360 million of $500 million granted, and CTA obligating $400 million of $730 million granted, as of June 30, 2001. 

The following table provides a status of programmed funds through the end of June (end of FY 2001).

Highlights of FY 2001 investments in northeastern Illinois' commuter rail network:

  • Union Pacific West Line Extension
       This project is providing an extension of the Union Pacific West Line service to Elburn, with an additional passenger stop at LaFox.  This is a New Start project.  The Federal Transit Administration has approved the Full Funding Grant Agreement for this project, which is in the final design stage and on schedule to proceed to construction.
  • North Central Service Expansion and Southwest Service Expansion and Extension
       The North Central project will increase the capacity of the Wisconsin Central Railroad to handle more Metra commuter trains.  The Southwest Service project will provide for a similar upgrade of service and will extend the commuter line to Manhattan, Ill.  The FTA has approved the Full Funding Grant Agreements for these two projects.
  • 26 New Locomotives
       These locomotives will be used both for replacement of retirement-age locomotives and to expand service.
  • 300 New Bi-Level Cars
       Metra is purchasing 300 new bi-level commuter cars which will be wheelchair accessible pursuant to the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Up to 258 cars will replace aging cars on Metra's system, and 42 will be used for service expansion.  Deliveries will take place from 2003 to 2005.
  • Bridge Improvements
     > Union Pacific Northwest Line bridges between Ashland-Armitage and Kostner Avenue, near the Kennedy Expressway 14 bridges
     > Chicago Avenue, Milwaukee District serves both the North and West Lines
     > 19th-55th Streets, Rock Island District 21 bridges
     > Fullerton to Balmoral, Union Pacific North Line 22 century-old bridges
  • Other Investments
     > Lake Street Interlocker serves the Milwaukee District and Amtrak
     > Car Rehabilitations 40 bi-level cars operated on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe line

Highlights of FY 2001 Investments in the CTA rail and bus network:

  • Rehabilitate the Douglas Branch/Blue Line
       This project provides for design of the Douglas Branch reconstruction as a federal New Start.  While the whole of the Douglas Branch will be  reconstructed, this first phase funds various design elements. Related structural work identifies components that must be replaced now to ensure safe, efficient service.  Estimated Completion Date: March 2002
  • Renew Right-of-Way System-Wide
       Right-of-way renewal ensures continued safe and acceptable levels of CTA rail service.  It also helps minimize the delay caused by slow zones and other inconveniences that discourage potential customers.  This project provides for the repair and installation of footwalk, track, power distribution, signal and communications systems.  Estimated Completion Date: March 2002
  • Renew Structure of Logan Square Connector on the O'Hare/Blue Line
       When CTA structures, track and footwalks are worn and beyond their design life, they must be replaced in order to maintain safe and efficient service.  This project will rebuild deteriorated column tops, replace deteriorated column bases, replace ties and provide other preventative maintenance on the Blue Line between the Dearborn and Kimball subway stations.  Estimated Completion Date: December 2002
  • Perform Overhaul for 200 Buses
       This project is a part of CTA's Bus Overhaul Program and will extend the useful life of 200 40-foot buses in service by systematically upgrading their mechanical systems and appearance features.  Currently, 158 buses have been overhauled.  Estimated Completion Date: March 2002
  • Other Investments 
     > Replace flange angles on the Ravenswood/Brown Line
     > Perform bus maintenance activities
     > Install air conditioners on up to 490 40-foot buses
     > Replace material management computer system
     > Replace 13-year-old bus fare boxes
     > Purchase non-revenue vehicles.

Highlights of FY 2000 and 2001 Investments in the Pace Suburban Bus Service:  

  • Purchase of four expansion fixed-route buses 
  • Purchase of up to 57 replacement fixed route buses 
  • Construction of a transportation center at the UPS facility in Hodgkins
  • Improvements to various garages and facilities 
  • Purchase of power packs for buses 
  • Purchase of computer hardware and sotware 
  • Purchase of fare collection equipment
  • Purchase of engines and transmissions
  • Costs associated with other purchases.

Illinois FIRST Program Summary: 
IDOT FY 2001

Prior to Illinois FIRST, existing revenue from state highway user fees, enacted in 1989, supported a five-year state highway program of $6.8 billion.  An in-crease in vehicle registration fees and the highway bond authorization in 1999 provided new resources of $3.7 billion.  The state highway program through the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) for FY 2000 to 2004 is $10.5 billion and includes $1.6 billion for local roads.  This is in addition to funds that townships, municipalities and counties receive from the state for transportation investments.  Of the $10.5 billion, 45 percent is committed to projects in northeastern Illinois.  And, of the $8.9 billion that is available for state highway projects, 77 percent is being used for system preservation and modernization. 

In conjunction with increased motor vehicle registration fees, the allocation of existing motor fuel tax revenue to local governments was raised from 41.6 percent to 54.4 percent.  This provides an increase of $200 million from $1.4 billion to $1.6 billion to be programmed by cities and counties for local roads.  Illinois FIRST adds $3.7 billion for state and local road improvements, bringing the total to $10.5 billion in state and local road assistance.

This substantial investment program ensures that by 2004, 85 percent of the state's highways will be rated in "good" to "excellent" condition.  However, the remaining backlog of unfunded repairs will be almost 2,400 miles of roads and 850 bridges.

IDOT's $10.5 billion five-year Illinois FIRST road program committed $1.8 billion in FY 2000, $2.2 billion in FY 2001, and programmed $2.2 billion for FY 2002.  IDOT reports that funds for the second year, which ended June 30, 2001, have been fully committed to contracts, advertisements or consultant agreements. 

IDOT reports that the two year benefits of Illinois FIRST to northeastern Illinois include the rehabilitation or replacement of 128 bridges, reconstruction or resurfacing of 456 miles of roads, and 121 traffic congestion and safety projects, including traffic signal upgrades, grade crossing protection improvements and intersection reconstruction.  IDOT is well on its way to reducing the number of deficient roads and bridges in northeastern Illinois.

"Illinois FIRST is rebuilding this state's infrastructure. Here in northern Illinois it is fixing the Hillside Strangler and rehabilitating Chicago's Wacker Drive. For a modest investment we've saved motorists hundreds of dollars a year, not to mention headaches and frustration."
Gov. George Ryan at the opening of the new Hillside interchange at I-290.

Highlights of the status and benefits of road projects to Northeastern Illinois: 

  • Hillside "Strangler" Bottleneck.  At the end of Phase I improvements in FY 2001, rush hour travel time through the bottleneck at Inter-states 290 (the Eisenhower Expressway) and 88 (the East-West Tollway) and US 12/20/45 have been reduced from 20 minutes to an estimated three or four minutes.  Eastbound vehicles from Interstate 88 and Interstate 290 exiting at Mannheim Road will completely bypass the current bottleneck on the Eisenhower.   Obligated to date: $138.9 million
  • Stevenson Expressway Reconstruction.  This project will replace deteriorating bridges, repave roadway and exit and entrance ramps, and improve overhead lighting on Interstate  55, which will ultimately have three lanes in each direction.  Project cost: $567 million.  At press time, $496.1 million had been spent, and $38.6 million budgeted for FY 2002 bridge improvements, with the remaining $32.3 million to be included in FY 2003-2006 bridge improvement and construction engineering projects.
  • Borman Expressway/Interstate 80 (from Interstate 94 the Bishop Ford Expressway to the Indiana State Line) reconstruction and lane additions.  Project cost: $366.9 million.  Programmed to date:  $8 million
  • Dan Ryan Expressway/Interstate 94  (From 31st Street to Interstate 57) reconstruction. Project cost: $545 million.  Programmed for engineering FY 2002: $9 million
  • Lake Shore Drive.  Reconstruction, bridge replacement, pedestrian underpass construction, and lighting, drainage, median barrier and landscape rehabilitation are planned for FY 2002-2006 for US 41 between Interstate 55 and 67th Street.  Project cost: $82.2 million.  The FY 2001 program included $6 million in federal High Priority funds.
  • FY 2000-2001 arterial improvements:
     > US 30 (Larkin Avenue to Cass Street). Additional capacity will alleviate congestion and facilitate traffic movements through Joliet.  FY 2001 obligated: $8.6 million
     > US 45 (IL 137 to IL 176).  Modernization of traffic signals and implementation of signal timing will result in reduced vehicle emissions and reduced congestion on arterial roadways.  FY 2001 obligated:  $15.7 million
     > Illinois 59 (111th to 143rd Streets). Additional capacity and signal work on this section of roadway will alleviate congestion, ultimately allowing IL 59 to serve as the main arterial to the western DuPage County.  FY 2001 obligated: $24.3 million
     > Illinois 22 (Lake Zurich Road) from US 14 to Quentin Road.  This project includes lane additions, bridge replacement, new bridge construction and other improvements.  Project cost:  $67 million, with $1.9 million programmed in FY 2002
     > Illinois 22 (Half Day Road) from east of Illinois 83 in Long Grove to US 41 (Skokie Highway) in Highland Park.  This project includes lane additions, bridge replacement and land acquisition.  Project cost:  $77.8 million, with $9.4 million in FY 2002 for engineering and design
     > Illinois 64 (North Avenue) from east of Illinois 53 to Villa Avenue.  The project includes additional lanes and signal timing, lighting and landscaping improvements.  Project cost:  $32.1 million, with  $1.5 million in FY 2002 for land acquisition
     > Algonquin Bypass from the north junction of Illinois 31 to the south junction of Illinois 31.  Project cost: $38.2 million  (including $9.2 million in High Priority funds from TEA-21) for this new construction.  Cost includes land acquisition and engineering. 
     > Palatine Road from east of US 12 (Rand Road) to US 45/Illinois 21 (Milwaukee Avenue).  This project includes reconstruction, bridge and culvert rehabilitation, and median, signal and drainage improve ments.  Project cost:  $50.1 million, with $2.4 million in FY 2002 for engineering and land acquisition
     > Wacker Drive Reconstruction (Randolph Street to Michigan Avenue).  This project will renew a critical transportation link for the Interstate system feeding into Chicago's business district, providing access to high-density commercial development and an effective traffic bypass for the congested surface road system.  Project cost: $200 million.  To date, all contracts have been awarded.
  • Highway investments supporting economic redevelopment:
     > IDOT access improvements will help the Ford Motor Company Plant and Supplier Campus (Southeast Chicago) retain 2,000 jobs and create 1,000 jobs.  Cost: $41.2 million
     > IDOT access improvements will support the Joliet Arsenal Redevelopment (industrial park and intermodal facility), creating 8,000 new jobs.  Cost: $46 million
  • Other arterial improvements (FY 2002-05) that would not have happened without Illinois FIRST:
     > US 20 (Rohlwing Road to Walnut Street) reconstruction.  Cost: $40 million
     > Illinois 58/72 (Western Schaumburg Triangle) lane additions.  Cost: $22.7 million
     > Illinois 83 (Lake-Cook Road to IL 68) lane additions and signal timing.  Cost: $7.8 million
"These improvements, like reworking the ingress and egress to our Metra Station on Northwest Highway, would have stayed for years on the "to do" without Illinois FIRST. It has been extremely beneficial to our community and I'm not ashamed to say so."
Mayor Gerald "Skip" Farley of  Mount Prospect 

This information is a precursor to a more detailed assessment of the FY 2000 accomplishments to be published in IDOT's annual For the Record report.  For a copy, call Dick Smith at IDOT at 217.782.6332.

Thank you...

MPC is deeply grateful to the following for their funding of the Business Leaders for Transportation coalition:  The Joyce Foundation, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and the American Public Transit Association.

We also thank the following for their funding of MPC's Regi

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