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CTA 2007 Budget Passes (All Understanding)

By Scott Smith in News on Nov 15, 2006 5:25PM

On Tuesday, the CTA Transit Board passed its 2007 budget. And then promptly asked for more money.

In order to remedy the slow zones throughout the 2006_11_ctalogo.gifsystem, which now make up 34 percent of the Red Line and portions of the Blue Line, the CTA estimates it needs an additional $500 million dollars over and above the state and federal dollars it already receives (the budget currently allocates $35.7 million for 2007 but nothing for the next four years of its five-year capital budget).

In addition, the CTA still needs non-federal matching funds (about $220 million from the Illinois General Assembly and other sources) to fund all of its current capital projects. We were all set to rail on the CTA for their spendiferous ways until we sat down and took a brief look at the five-year capital program for the CTA’s proposed 2007 budget and discovered their plans make a lot of sense (since we didn’t want to be reduced to tears before noon, we decided to leave the section on operating expenses for another day).

In August of 2005, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient, Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy For Users (or SAFETEA-LU) passed Congress and gave the CTA the funds to extend the Red Line to 130th Street, the Orange Line out to the Ford City Shopping Center and the Yellow Line out to Old Orchard.

Moreover, the CTA will be using these funds to create the Circle Line, which will connect the CTA with Metra lines and improve connections throughout the system. The CTA will also reconstruct the Howard and Wilson stops, and continue construction on the Washington stop. Replacing and repairing buses and rail cars, expanding the Brown Line, upgrading dilapidated escalators, and inspecting and replacing rail ties throughout the Red, Brown and Blue lines are also in the budget.

One line item that did have us scratching our heads was the continued funding for the rehab of the Cermak branch of the Blue Line. Construction was completed in 2005, but the funding continues through 2007. Does this mean there’s extra cash lying around (so to speak) or was the CTA spending money then that they knew they’d be getting later?

Note that these plans don’t cover the usual day-to-day CTA expenses. But the CTA points out that when it invests in capital improvement projects (like repair and maintenance), it tends to drive down the wear-and-tear expenses of its operating budget, which we’ll take a look at as soon as we come out of the fetal position.

Take a look for yourself here (PDF link).