A better way to spend money - Metropolitan Planning Council

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A better way to spend money

In the tradition of Rocky and Bullwinkle, MPC believes it is not the size of a state capital package that matters, but how you spend it.

As state lawmakers discuss a capital spending program in Springfield , there is no question Illinois needs to invest more money to fix the region’s crumbling infrastructure. Whether it’s the $7.7 billion the RTA cites as necessary to maintain the region’s transit system , or the $6 billion the Transportation for Illinois Coalition cites for the statewide road network, Illinois is unlikely to meet all of these demands in one fell swoop. So, how do we, as a region, select which projects will deliver the greatest benefit s for their cost?

Develop a new state capital program that incorporates quantifiable selection criteria as part of an essential cost-benefit analysis.

MPC will only support a capital package that uses criteria. We are not naïve and understand that this is politically challenging, not the least because it may infringe on legislative earmarking of projects that do not rate highly compared to others. Nonetheless, utilizing selection criteria is neither a new nor a radical idea. In researching how other states make capital investments, MPC identified at least nine states that employ selection criteria for their capital planning. In the U . K . , the recently released Eddington Study promises to re form transportation planning nationwide by implement ing selection criteria and cost-benefit analysis to evaluate and rank transportation investments.

The first step in developing criteria is to establish statewide goals for the investments through a consensus-driven process involving all regional stakeholders . Again, other state models are a useful starting point. Missouri identifies eight criteria to measure the value of its transportation investments, including economic competitiveness, quality of communities, and environmental protection. To be effective, criteria should not favor one mode of transportation over another, but rather evaluate broad, yet quantifiable, goals that can be advanced by various forms of investment, from bike and pedestrian enhancements to large-scale transit extensions. This evaluation should be done at the regional level through the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, where a broad array of stakeholders can participate in the process.

MPC will continue to advocate for maintaining our regional infrastructure, but will insist that projects are chosen for investment based on a detailed cost-benefit analysis that includes quantifiable criteria. We will release best practices and a framework for criteria-based decision-making in Illinois later this spring. Tax dollars are scarce and this is the best way for the state to spend the people’s money wisely.

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