CTA Is Cramming To Get More Funding Before The Trump Era Begins

By Emma G. Gallegos in News on Nov 16, 2016 3:20PM

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Bryn Mawr stop is slated for renovation (Photo by Dawn Mueller via the Chicagoist Flickr Pool)

Urban transportation planners worry that Donald Trump's campaign to Make America Great Again—a promise and also a threat to return to a bygone time—could be bad news for them. Sure, we don't know what Trump's policy will look like exactly, but his core constituency aren't exactly city-dwellers gunning for new bike lanes and better public transit.

If there was a moment of hope when Trump said he was committed to investing in infrastructure, it was quickly dashed by the man he brought on to lead his transition team on transportation issues: Martin Whitmer, a man who has lobbied for the National Asphalt Paving Association and the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, the country’s largest industry group for highway construction firms. It's hard to know what the future holds, but it looks like more will be spent on highways and less on trains.

Now the CTA is cramming to ensure as much federal money as it can before Trump takes office. The CTA is aiming to get a new tax increment financing (TIF) district to help pay for the Red and Purple Modernization Program. The $2.1 billion project is hoping to secure $1.1 billion in federal grants. The city believes it can bring in $823 million over 35 years through the TIF, according to Crain's

Transit officials say they believe their proposal would be appealing to any administration, but why risk it?

"We don't want other cities to catch up with us. This administration is familiar with this project," said Mike McLaughlin, deputy CTA chief of staff.

The deadline for that funding is Nov. 30. By the time the application is processed, it may be Jan. 15—just days away from Inauguration Day.

The rails of the Red and Purple lines are in need of updating. At 100 years old, they're, well, nearing the end of the line. The CTA also hopes to upgrade signals between Belmont and Howard and rebuild the Red and Purple Line tracks between Lawrence and Bryn Mawr in the first phase. (The track from Bryn Mawr to Howard will be rebuilt during a later phase.) The CTA also wants to rebuild the Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn, and Bryn Mawr stations, which will not only modernize them but ensure they're accessible to people with disabilities, according to Streetsblog.

During the first phase, the CTA will also build a flyover track that would allow the Brown Line to bypass the junction at the Belmont Station, cutting down on conflicts with the Red and Purple Line. Ultimately this would allow more trains through, which will be especially helpful during rush hour.

To get the TIF approved will require approval from local authorities, including the City Council. Streetsblog says that it expects some opposition from 43rd Ward alder Michele Smith over the exact boundaries of the TIF.