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Old Posted Nov 29, 2021, 8:25 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: The Big Onion
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Why Chicago officials like their chances to win major grants in $1 trillion infrastructure bill

The $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that President Joe Biden signed into law earlier this month promises to send billions of dollars to Illinois, with much of that money flowing to Chicago-area roads, bridges, transit agencies and airports through transportation funding formulas.

But if some of Chicago’s most ambitious public works projects are going to get built, the city will have to win additional competitive grants that are funded in the legislation. That includes money for replacing toxic lead water lines, converting the city’s bus fleet from diesel to electric, making “L” stations accessible to those with disabilities and extending the Red Line south to 130th Street.


Illinois is expected to receive at least $17 billion from the infrastructure bill, a number that is likely to balloon once the grants get doled out. Senior Illinois U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin lauded the historic size of the legislation, noting that Congress used to pass smaller federal infrastructure bills on a more regular basis.


Durbin and Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker both have said Illinois is better positioned than most states to spend the money quickly — especially on roads and bridges.

That’s because the influx in federal funding will accelerate portions of Pritzker’s “Rebuild Illinois,” an ongoing six-year, $45 billion program to repair and upgrade roads, bridges, university buildings, state facilities and other infrastructure. That, in turn, will free up state money previously set aside for the state’s program to fund other projects in Illinois’ lengthy backlog of infrastructure projects.

The federal infrastructure legislation sets aside $89 billion in federal transit formula funding, the largest federal investment in transit in U.S. history. Illinois’ cut of that money is $4 billion.


The CTA president also said he will seek grant funding to overhaul the west end of the Blue Line from the Loop to Forest Park, a project that also would allow the agency to add more trains on the line and increase capacity on the northern stretch to O’Hare, where train cars are often crammed.

But the project topping Carter’s list is the one that is furthest along in the planning stages: the long-discussed 5.3-mile extension of the Red Line south from its current terminus at 95th Street to 130th Street, adding four new stations.


During his July visit, Buttigieg also toured a CSX rail yard in southwest suburban Bedford Park to draw attention to the CREATE rail program, which began in 2003 to ease freight train congestion, reduce commuter train travel times and improve rail crossing safety by eliminating freight grade crossings. One in four U.S. freight trains pass through Chicago, about 500 per day, in addition to some 800 passenger and commuter trains.


Local officials are expected to aggressively push to fund one CREATE initiative in particular, the 75th Street Corridor Improvement Project that spans Chicago’s Ashburn, Englewood, Auburn Gresham and West Chatham neighborhoods.

Two other CREATE projects pushed by U.S. Rep. Marie Newman and others involve separating the grades between the Belt Railway of Chicago at Archer Avenue and near the intersection of 63rd Street and Harlem Avenue.

To fund CREATE projects in the Chicago region and a rail improvement project in Springfield, state officials will seek to apply for the $16 billion in competitive rail grants allowed under the infrastructure bill, part of $66 billion in the legislation for modernizing, expanding and improving passenger and freight rail.

The infrastructure bill also sets aside $5 billion in grants for new low emission buses, and Carter said the CTA would aggressively pursue that money as part of an effort to make its entire 1,800 bus fleet fully electric by the year 2030. To date, the city has eight of the $900,000 electric buses, with another 20 on order and a contract to buy another 30 or 40, Carter said.


The infrastructure bill also includes $55 billion for water infrastructure improvements, with $1.7 billion expected for Illinois. The grants for lead pipe replacement would be tied to an additional $15 billion pool of money.
I really dig that a lot of this money is going to CREATE projects with rail/street grade separation projects and beefing up freight rail bottlenecks, like along 75th St where 6 freight lines turn into 2 for a mile segment, causing frequent backups for both freight and passenger trains. Allowing freight to move through the city at a faster pace will entice the big rail operators to invest more in the metro area instead of trying to bypass us via alternate freight hubs such as Kansas City, etc.
"Eventually, I think Chicago will be the most beautiful great city left in the world." -Frank Lloyd Wright
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