Business Leaders for Transportation Hosts Forum with Rep. Emanuel - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Business Leaders for Transportation Hosts Forum with Rep. Emanuel

One of a Series; Discusses Transportation Issues Vital to Area Businesses

At a critical last stage of the federal transportation bill, and facing proposed funding levels far short of the need, northeastern Illinois’ business leaders are demanding that transit improvements move forward. At a breakfast at DePaul University in Chicago featuring U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-5th District), area business leaders rallied for increased funds over the most recent modest numbers put forward in the U.S. House. The event, second in a 2004 series, rallied support for improvements to Illinois’ transportation network to make it more efficient, especially for commuters and their employers.

"As the nation's transportation hub, the Chicago area must have an efficient rail, air, and highway system, said Rep. Emanuel. “Our economy depends on it. It's vital that Chicagoland's businesses continue to play an active role in articulating their transportation needs today to ensure we meet the needs of the region in the future."

Over the course of the last federal transportation bill, Illinois received federal grants for five transit improvements, more than any other state. In the next round, Illinois is seeking federal monies for an additional 10 transit projects — including extension of the Chicago Transit Authority Yellow Line to Old Orchard mall, and Red Line south to 130th Street — which also makes it critical to have a state investment package in place to provide matching funds. Business Leaders for Transportation is advocating for both an improved commitment for Illinois freight, transit, and road investments at the federal level, and a state package that defines investment criteria and coordinates transportation decisions with land-use priorities.

"Today's forum drew attention to issues that will affect our jobs and our lives for generations," said event moderator Joseph Schwieterman, director of the Chaddick Institute at DePaul University. “ Not all business owners in Chicago appreciate how an efficient transit system can save employees time and money. Rising traffic congestion and a changing labor market are encouraging many to reassess their options.”

"The CREATE program is a collaborative effort between the City, State, and railroads that will improve the efficient movement of people and goods," said Commissioner Miguel d'Escoto, commissioner, Chicago Department of Transportation. "The CREATE partners are working closely with our partners in Congress to secure funding for this historic program."

MarySue Barrett, president of the Metropolitan Planning Council, which co-leads Business Leaders for Transportation with Chicago Metropolis 2020 and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, outlined the coalition’s recommendations for TEA-3. “Business Leaders for Transportation strongly believes that the federal government needs to return to a needs-based funding formula, and provide the necessary resources for a better connected, intermodal system for northeastern Illinois. An informed and active business community is key to ensuring that Illinois’ transportation needs are met.”

This spring, Business Leaders for Transportation is hosting a series of forums around the region, including one on May 11 with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-4th District). The series is sponsored by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. Additional support for today’s breakfast at DePaul University’s Cortelyou Commons in Chicago was provided by DePaul, the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce, Melrose Park Chamber of Commerce, and West Cook Community Development Corporation. The forums follow a series in late 2003 that brought together six congressmen and local leaders with more than 500 concerned constituents.

Business Leaders for Transportation, a coalition of nearly 180 members representing more than 12,000 regional employers, provides a collective voice for Chicago-area businesses on surface transportation issues. Of central importance to the coalition is increased state and federal transportation funding for northeastern Illinois, supported by coordinated planning to achieve the most efficient and desirable return on transportation system investments.

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