Posted on January 10, 2008 10:55 PM
Weekly Update, 1/11/08
Mass transit update.
As everyone should have heard by now, yesterday the General Assembly finally passed legislation that would put our region's transit system on stable financial ground. House Bill 656 (http://tinyurl.com/yp7us8
) includes essentially the same funding mechanism that was in Senate Bill 572, which is a quarter-cent-per-dollar tax hike in Cook County and a half-cent in the five collar counties (with additional funds from Chicago's real estate transfer tax). We believed all along that this was a fair solution to fill an absolutely critical need. The Governor has announced that he will attach an amendatory veto that calls for transit systems across the state to provide free rides to senior citizens. Initial indications are that the House and Senate would approve that provision, probably next week and in time to avert the planned service cuts and fare increases on January 20. The Tribune says (http://tinyurl.com/yq6sx6
) this would make Illinois the first state to provide free public transit for seniors at all times of day. It's not time to celebrate until the General Assembly acts on the anticipated amendatory veto, but hope is in sight at last.
CMAP Board meeting and EJ&E acquisition. The CMAP Board and MPO Policy Committee met this week, and both groups discussed the pressing issue of CN's proposed purchase of the EJ&E rail line. The Board and Policy Committee have authorized me to send a letter to the Surface Transportation Board, calling for careful study of the acquisition. Our position is that 1.) the acquisition holds some transportation benefits for the region, 2.) it also clearly has significant impacts on some of our region's communities, 3.) more detailed study is clearly needed so informed decisions can be made, and 4.) CMAP intends to play an active role in that process, as our authorizing legislation calls on us to do in reviewing "developments of regional importance." That analysis must identify feasible options for mitigating negative impacts. Thursday's Trib had a story (http://tinyurl.com/34raqt) that mentions our draft letter.
CMAQ projects. Seventy-one surface transportation projects across the region will receive new federal grants totaling over $54.3 million from CMAP under the Fiscal Year 2008 Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program. The awards were approved by CMAP Board and the MPO Policy Committee. Created in 1991, CMAQ is a federally-funded effort to make surface transportation improvements that improve air quality and mitigate congestion. It supports transit improvements, commuter parking lots, traffic flow improvements, bicycle and pedestrian facility projects, bicycle parking projects, and other projects that result in emissions reductions that can be estimated and are otherwise eligible for CMAQ funds. Read more in the CMAP news release (http://www.cmap.illinois.gov/news/release_1-10-08.aspx), and visit http://www.cmap.illinois.gov/cmaq/fy2009_cmaq.aspx for the FY09 call for proposals that has a deadline of February 1, 2008.
CMAP article on mixed-use development. Many residents of metropolitan Chicago have gained a new appreciation for the old-time concept of a walkable town center with compact development and mixed uses. While those centers have often developed along Metra rail lines, the availability of mass transit is not an absolute requirement. Read more in an article about mixed use development (http://www.cmap.illinois.gov/news/mixed_use_1-9-08.aspx) that CMAP's Tedd Carrison and I prepared for Office and Commercial Real Estate Magazine's Winter 2008 issue.
Brownbag on water issues. At noon Friday January 25, CMAP will host speaker Sarah Dunn from Urban Lab, an architecture and urban design practice in Chicago. She will present their award-winning design concept “Growing Water, Chicago 2106.” This project (www.urbanlab.com/h2o) envisions Chicago as a series of Eco-Boulevards functioning to treat 100% of the City’s wastewater and stormwater naturally, using microorganisms, small invertebrates, fish and plants. Treated water would be harvested and/or returned to the Great Lakes Basin. Ultimately, they would create a closed water loop within Chicago, basically re-engineering the city as a "living system." Registration is free; just contact Jean Vertison (312-454-0400 or email@example.com).