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Invest Strategically in Transportation

Our transportation infrastructure is key to the region's prosperity, yet it has fallen behind other industrialized parts of the world, many of which have invested significantly to create and preserve modern, world-class systems.

CMAP urges the federal government, the State of Illinois, transit agencies, and local governments to develop innovative financing to support a world-class transportation system for this new century. The "costs of congestion" are real and serious, and include lost time and fuel, decreased productivity, inefficient freight movements, and pollution.

Regarding expenditures, GO TO 2040 recommends that funds for transportation need to be allocated more wisely, using performance-driven criteria rather than arbitrary formulas. Transportation implementers should prioritize efforts to maintain, enhance, and modernize the existing system, and expensive new capacity projects should be built only if they yield benefits that outweigh their costs. Examples of enhancements and modernizations that should be pursued include more attractive and comfortable buses and trains that improve the passenger experience, better traveler information systems, targeted transit extensions and arterial improvements, and multimodal approaches such as integrating bicycling and pedestrian accommodations in roadway design.

Congestion

The Metropolitan Planning Council has pegged congestion's annual cost in our region at $7.3 billion. Performance of our region's transportation system can be measured by tracking highway congestion. While this chart shows a promising trend, it is largely attributable to the economic slow-down, and our region remains one of the nation's most-congested. Congestion must be reduced by implementing GO TO 2040's recommended land use pattern and the plan's targeted improvements, expansions, and other strategies for managing traffic.

In late 2012, CMAP began a campaign urging Governor Quinn and leadership of the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Illinois Tollway to implement congestion pricing to manage traffic on five new expressway projects approved in GO TO 2040. Already used by 10 other states, congestion pricing gives travelers the option of an express toll lane that ensures reliable travel times. Express tolls rise and fall based on demand at various times of day, and drivers choose when to use the lanes based on variable cost. See cmap.illinois.gov/congestion-pricing.

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Increase Commitment to Public Transit

GO TO 2040 calls for improvements to the region's transit system. This requires attention to not just how transit operates, but how it is perceived. The region clearly needs transit services that function well, with on-time, frequent service and seamless transfers, but also must address the issues of perception that make transit the option of last resort to many people.

A strong transit system benefits the region's economy, environment, and quality of life by providing residents with transportation choices and helping to lower congestion. However, transit use has not kept pace with the region's growth, and ridership is actually lower than it was 20 years ago. Decades of underinvestment have left the region's transit system with aging infrastructure in need of basic maintenance and improvements, as well as demands for expansion to areas that do not have transit service today.

Strengthening Transit

With a strong transit system, residents have more choices concerning where they can live and work and how they travel, and can avoid the harmful effects of congestion. Using transit is less expensive for an individual than owning and maintaining an automobile, and transit systems provide important travel options for lower-income residents.

GO TO 2040 set ambitious goals of 2.3 million transit trips per weekday by 2015 and 4 million by 2040. As shown in this chart, the number of transit trips increased somewhat in 2011 after two straight years of slight decline. Because these goals are a central strategy for reducing congestion, enhancing livability, improving air quality, among other important regional objectives, we need a renewed regional commitment to making sure that transit is the first option for more residents to get around, rather than the last.

Population and Jobs with Transit Access

GO TO 2040 seeks to improve transit access so more people may live and work within walking distance of these services. Since the plan was adopted, three new rail stations have opened, increasing connectivity between transit system assets and enhancing mobility for residents of the region:

Metra Rock Island District 35th St. Station. Opened April 2011, in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood, just east of the Dan Ryan Expressway. Easy access to the Illinois Institute of Technology and U. S. Cellular Field. Close proximity to the CTA's Green and Red Lines.

CTA Yellow Line Oakton St. Station. Opened April 2012 in Skokie. Provides an important intermediate stop between the existing termini at Dempster and Howard. Close proximity to Oakton Community College. Through the Howard station, the Yellow Line connects passengers to the Red and Purple Lines, which serve high-demand destinations such as the Loop, Wrigley Field, and U. S. Cellular Field.

CTA Green and Pink Lines Morgan St. Station. Opened May 2012 at Morgan and Lake streets in Chicago. Located about half-way between the existing Ashland and Clinton stations, which are nearly 1.3 miles apart. Provides increased access to the thriving West Loop.

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Create a More Efficient Freight Network

Metropolitan Chicago's freight system links the region's industries and consumers to global markets. Highways, railroads, waterways, and airports all provide important connections to the world. Yet each of these modes of transport is intertwined with the livability of the region. Therefore, planning for an efficient, regional, multimodal freight system is a key priority of GO TO 2040.

GO TO 2040 strongly supports increased investment in the region's freight system. Investment will be required primarily by the private sector in the normal course of private business enterprise, but public investments will also be necessary to promote the economy, public health, safety, and welfare. The two goals of this increased investment should be to improve the economic competitiveness of industry in metropolitan Chicago and to reduce the impacts of freight operations on local communities, addressing travel delay, pollution, and safety.

Create

The Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) program is a public-private partnership between the U.S. Department of Transportation, the State of Illinois, the City of Chicago, Metra, Amtrak, and the nation's freight railroads. Together, the partners identified and prioritized strategic rail infrastructure improvements to reduce congestion, especially grade-separation projects that help freight move efficiently and keep it from impeding travel by cars, trucks, and commuter rail.

Funding for future projects will continue to be a challenge, but four new CREATE projects were finished in 2012, bringing the overall total of completed projects to 16. Significant work is left ahead for the partnership, with 54 yet to be built from among a total 70 projects. Of the remaining projects, 21 are underway in various stages of design or construction.

Highway-Rail Crossing Delays

Railroad delay at highway-rail and rail-rail grade crossings is a major issue affecting highway users, passenger transport, and the freight rail industry itself. In addition to the economic impacts of delay and travel time reliability, grade crossing delay can be an issue for community emergency responders. Regionally, delays at highway-rail crossings have decreased significantly since 2002, driven by reductions in all counties -- especially in Cook.

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Major Capital Projects

While the primary transportation emphasis of GO TO 2040 is to maintain and modernize the system, the plan recommends several major capital projects that will maximize regional benefits of mobility and economic development.

Of the many potential investments in the transportation system, only a small number of projects are large enough to be considered major capital projects. Such projects demonstrate a significant effect on the capacity of the region's transportation system and include extensions or additional lanes on the expressway system, new expressways, or extensions and expansions to the region's heavy rail system.

New Projects or Extensions

Central Lake County Corridor
This project saw significant progress in 2011-12 as the Illinois 53 Blue Ribbon Advisory Council issued its final report to the Illinois Tollway, reflecting a solid consensus on extending IL 53 into central Lake County, beyond where it currently ends at Lake-Cook Road. Meant to ease congestion that has resulted from rapid development of central Lake County in recent decades, this project will improve access and mobility in the county and region as a whole. GO TO 2040 calls for a "modern boulevard" with a small footprint to minimize project impacts on the natural environment and character of nearby communities. In 2013, CMAP's LTA program will work with the Tollway and affected communities to develop land-use plans -- an important step forward on the project. The Tollway is hiring a consultant to conduct engineering work, consider capital and operating costs, and develop funding and financing options.

CTA Red Line South Extension
The CTA Red Line South Extension will extend the Red Line from its current terminus at the 95th Street Station four stops to 130th Street. The Red Line is currently the CTA's most heavily used rail line, and the 95th Street station has its highest ridership outside of downtown Chicago, due to extensive bus-to-rail transfers at this station. CTA has received $8.4 million in federal funding for efforts to prepare the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which continued in 2012. Through its Local Technical Assistance program, CMAP collaborated in 2012 with the Developing Communities Project (DCP) and the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) on a livability report in support of the extension.

Elgin O'Hare West Bypass
The Elgin O'Hare West Bypass (EOWB) project will relieve congestion and improve accessibility around O'Hare Airport, a major economic driver in the region. It consists of 1) a western expressway bypass of O'Hare Airport, 2) an extension of the Elgin O'Hare Expressway from I-290/IL Route 53 to the Western O'Hare bypass and West O'Hare Terminal, and 3) an additional lane in each direction of the existing Elgin O'Hare expressway. The Tollway's Elgin-O'Hare West Bypass Advisory Council strongly supported the project and identified goals, guiding principles, and recommendations regarding economic impact, financing, sustainability, and diversity. The final Tier 2 EIS was released in October 2012.

I-294/I-57 Interchange
The I-294/I-57 Interchange project calls for a full interchange at the juncture of these two interstates for improved accessibility to and from the south suburbs and also for improved north-south regional travel. The Illinois Tollway and IDOT are sharing the cost of this project. CMAP's LTA program is helping municipalities near the proposed interchange plan together for land use and economic development.

West Loop Transportation Center
The proposed West Loop Transportation Center between the I-290 Eisenhower and Lake Street in Chicago would improve transfers between intercity rail, potential high-speed rail, commuter rail, rapid transit, and bus services. The City of Chicago is conducting a Master Plan Study of Union Station, whose capacity would be increased by the proposed center. The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) is also working on two shorter term projects: to implement Bus Rapid Transit service to Union Station, and to convert a parking lot next to Union Station for use as a public transit bus station and turnaround that will improve transfers between rail and bus.

Managed Lanes and Multimodal Corridors

I-55 Managed Lanes
The I-55 Managed Lane project consists of an additional managed lane in each direction between Weber Road and I-90/94. As a step toward managed lanes on I-55, IDOT has implemented a Pace bus-on-shoulder demonstration project to determine the safety, effectiveness, and usefulness of bus-on-shoulder transit operations. Engineering work is underway, with an environmental study document anticipated by 2014. In fall 2012 IDOT conducted an I-55 Managed Lane Survey of travelers' experiences on the corridor.

I-90 Managed Lanes
The I-90 Managed Lanes project consists of an additional managed lane in each direction between I-294 and I-39 near Rockford. To develop a consensus, the Tollway created an I-90 Corridor Planning Council with representatives from the transit agencies, business and environmental groups, county boards, legislators and mayors. Its April 2012 report recommends implementation of "congestion-priced, managed lanes as part of the planned reconstruction." A 2011 study by the Tollway and RTA determined that express bus service would be a cost-effective way to accommodate transit on the proposed I-90 managed lane, and transit in the corridor will be implemented through a CMAQ grant of $38.4 million to Pace. Widening, bridge, and utilities work has begun on the western section between Elgin and Rockford in preparation for the additional lane to be done in 2013. Work continues on creating a complete interchange at I-90 and IL 47.

I-290 Multimodal Corridor
The I-290 Multimodal Corridor project will expand expressway capacity between Mannheim Road and Austin Avenue. Under consideration are an additional managed lane in each direction and multi-modal solutions. In spring 2012, IDOT sought early feedback from community representatives on preliminary interchange concepts within the I-290 study area, which were presented in June to the I-290 Corridor Advisory Group that consists of community and regional transit representatives, along with others who have technical expertise in transportation, engineering, land use and environmental topics. Currently, only funding for Preliminary Engineering and Environmental Studies (Phase I) is available. Phase I is anticipated to be completed by spring 2014.

Transit Improvements

CTA Red Line and Purple Line Improvements
The CTA Red Line and Purple Line Improvements project mainly includes reconstruction on the lines' shared right-of-way between the Addison and Howard stations, as well as on the Purple Line between the Linden and Howard stations. In November 2011, the State of Illinois and City of Chicago announced that they had identified $1 billion in funding for Red Line improvements from various state and federal sources. The work will be completed over the next four years. The CTA and the Federal Transit Administration are preparing a Tier 1 Red and Purple Environmental Impact study, building on the North Red and Purple Line Vision Study in 2010. CTA held public open houses about the project in February 2012.

Congestion

The Metropolitan Planning Council has pegged congestion's annual cost in our region at $7.3 billion. Performance of our region's transportation system can be measured by tracking highway congestion. While this chart shows a promising trend, it is largely attributable to the economic slow-down, and our region remains one of the nation's most-congested. Congestion must be reduced by implementing GO TO 2040's recommended land use pattern and the plan's targeted improvements, expansions, and other strategies for managing traffic.

In late 2012, CMAP began a campaign urging Governor Quinn and leadership of the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Illinois Tollway to implement congestion pricing to manage traffic on five new expressway projects approved in GO TO 2040. Already used by 10 other states, congestion pricing gives travelers the option of an express toll lane that ensures reliable travel times. Express tolls rise and fall based on demand at various times of day, and drivers choose when to use the lanes based on variable cost. See cmap.illinois.gov/congestion-pricing.