We all know the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act offers an incredible opportunity to strengthen our transportation system in northeastern Illinois. The region soon will start seeing millions of dollars in resources that can create a more resilient transportation network that serves everyone better and turn around historically disinvested communities.
What we don’t know is exactly what shape this transformation will take. Many people still are understanding how the money from this infrastructure bill will benefit northeastern Illinois.
For the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), we know the answers to that question lie in how we — as the region’s comprehensive planning agency — prepare to analyze, process, and implement the many different projects this bill will generate.
The opportunities this new transportation bill provides means more funding for the region’s core programs.
Some of the core programs that CMAP administers will see a 76-percent increase in funding for projects that improve options for bicyclists and pedestrians, as well as a 32-percent increase in funding for projects that address local multimodal needs. It expands the scope of some of our core programs, including projects that can create safer conditions for our most vulnerable users. Overall, the new bill devotes $324 million more in funding statewide for transit over the next six fiscal years.
Those are significant investments that will make it easier on residents across the region’s seven counties to access our best-paid industries and improve their quality of life. On top of that, the new bill creates more than 20 competitive grant programs that can address the region’s most pressing transportation challenges.
The bill devotes $5 billion in funding to states to establish vehicle charging infrastructure. CMAP already has started convening the region to prepare for this funding and working with our partners to plan for a more equitable development of a regional charging network.
Many competitive programs address community disinvestment, including a $1 billion for a pilot program to reconnect communities where highways have created a barrier to mobility and economic development.
These opportunities will help improve quality of life in the region, but the application process could easily pit a community against its neighbors. This is why CMAP is here as a resource to all of our 284 communities and seven counties in northeastern Illinois.
The region will need consensus to prioritize and secure the investments coming from those competitive programs. CMAP is well positioned to establish processes for the new formula programs this bill creates to ensure the region can quickly move on projects. This preparation takes work. It takes financial analysis, modeling, and more.
And this work speaks to what CMAP does best. We’ve seen firsthand what this region can accomplish when we speak with one voice. CMAP knows how to work with communities and build up their capacity to pursue new and additional resources that can turn their long-range plans into reality.
The only way for the whole region to maximize the benefits of this new infrastructure bill is by working together. As a coordinating regional agency, CMAP is excited to get to work to convene, prioritize, and build consensus around the many new opportunities this bill creates.
The intent of this new infrastructure bill is at the heart of this agency’s mission. If we don’t work together, our region’s disconnected communities will fall farther behind and the inequities that already have left too many of our residents behind will deepen. Through collaboration and a shared vision, we can take significant steps toward a more inclusive and thriving northeastern Illinois.
CMAP Executive Director Erin Aleman shares why regional collaboration is critical for northeastern Illinois to maximize the benefits of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.