The CTA's plans to extend the Red Line south to 131st Street and modernize the Red and Purple lines north of Belmont got a big boost last week when the state legislature passed a bill allowing the city to create special Tax Increment Financing districts within a half-mile on each side of 46 miles of rail tracks.
This bill, which Gov. Rauner said he will sign, would create a pool of money that allows the city to tap matching federal funding. From the Tribune report:
The projects to be covered by new TIF districts are the planned $2.1 billion modernization of the CTA Red and Purple lines, an upgrade for the Blue Line Forest Park Branch, renovation of Union Station and the much-discussed extension of the Red Line south of 95th Street. . . .
A TIF district allows the city to divert future property tax revenue increases from a district toward a public improvement project in the community, in this case a transit project. This assumes that property values will increase as a result of the project. TIFs have been subject to criticism because they direct new property tax revenue away from other public services, such as public schools.
The transit TIF legislation tries to allay that concern by continuing to give schools their portion — 54 percent — of any increased revenues. Of the rest of the increase, 80 percent would go to transit funding, while the other 20 percent would flow back to libraries, parks and other services.
Of the four projects, the Red-Purple Line modernization is the furthest along in terms of planning and needs $1 billion in federal money, but a local match is necessary to secure it. That could come from new TIF revenues, which could pay for a bond issue, as well as other funds, said CTA spokesman Brian Steele.
Much has been written about how some TIF districts benefit the rich and empowered only. But this use of TIFs will shorten commutes of people from all socioeconomic backgrounds or serve the underserved on the far South Side of Chicago.
That's why I support this use of a TIF.
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