Greg Hinz over at Crain's Chicago Business wrote a good recap of the new federal transportation bill and what it means for the CTA -- particularly for its efforts to extend it south to 131st Street and to modernize stations from Sheridan on the North Side all the way through the Purple Line.
As Hinz notes, the bill "has at least three different clauses that should boost Red Line work."
The first clause boosts the amount of money the CTA gets every year from the feds for infrastructure work. The exact hike isn't yet known, but it apparently is $15 million to $25 million a year.
While not a lot of cash, it can be leveraged to issue bonds worth about 10 times that amount.
The really big money, though, is in the “new start” clause of the bill. Specifically, it sets aside $3.8 billion over the next two years to pay for projects all over the country.
Now, “new start” implies building something new, rather than replacing something old. And that's traditionally how the program has worked, though U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and then-Rep. Rahm Emanuel were able to get through a special earmark a few years ago to pay for the reconstruction of the Brown Line.
But MAP-21 gives older systems a new way to tap new-start money: All they have to show is that, as a result of the proposed work, the “core capacity” of the bus or train line involved would increase at least 10 percent.
Finally, Hinz draws attention to the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA), which will let transit agencies to borrow cash for up to 35 years at rock-bottom rates - as low as 2.5 percent. "And the amount that can be borrowed is as much as 30 times the available repayment revenue stream," Hinz writes.
He also writes about the bad news - but I'll let you check that out on your own. The column is definitely worth a read.