CTA: Big Plans, Little Money

The CTA is seeking federal money to start working on the Circle Line

By Nicola Orichuia
|  Saturday, Oct 10, 2009  |  Updated 10:45 AM CDT
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CTA: Big Plans, Little Money

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The CTA is seeking $1 billion in federal funds to pay for the new Circle Line

Big plans, little money.

Despite economic woes, the Chicago Transit Authority has completed its analysis for a new Circle Line that would basically create a second Loop connecting neighborhoods farther away from downtown.

The initial phases of the plan would involve building new tracks connecting existing stations, four new stations and two Metra transfer stations. The initial costs are estimated around $1 billion.

Although the idea of one line connecting the Loop, Chinatown, the Illinois Medical District, Midway Airport, Pilsen and Little Village sounds compelling, finding the money won’t be easy.

On Wednesday, CTA president Richard L. Rodriguez announced staff and budget cuts for $122 million, which should help the agency deal with a $300 million projected revenue shortfall.

“Like everyone else, CTA has been hit hard by the recession,” Rodriguez said in a press release. “Our primary revenue sources—sales taxes, real estate taxes and fares—are all tied to the health of the economy.”

Most of the project’s funding would come from the federal New Starts Program, which over the past five years has provided several billion dollars to boost local and public transportation.

Things look pretty bleak for next year, too. Non-union workers will not see their salaries increase and non-paid furlough days are scheduled to take place.

The idea of a Circle Line was initially presented in 2002, and was a crucial transportation improvement included in the city’s plans to host the 2016 Olympic Games.

Last year alone, the CTA proposed to spend $4.3 billion for expansion projects for the Circle Line and other existing El lines, saying it is “important to improve the connectivity and usefulness of he system by adding strategic connections and line extensions.”

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