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Getting to 2040 with Meat AND Pudding

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Ted Rosenbaum

Former athlete, full-time engineer. I'd tell you more but I'd have to kill you.

I got into a twitter argument conversation (ugh, I shudder at that phrase) with Lindsay Banks of CMAP over my post yesterday.  Such is the limit of the 140 character medium that I want to take a moment now to expand a bit, as it's possible there's a big BRT announcement coming up that would otherwise shelve this important discussion.

Here's the situation: GoTo2040's capital projects are broken up into two sections: fiscally constrained and fiscally unconstrained.  Constrained projects are those which CMAP has deemed worthy of funding from the (projected) limited dollars over the next 3 decades, while unconstrained are those other projects which CMAP has decided do not warrant our attention for now.*  I posited that CMAP is being too narrow minded in how they plan to use capital projects to help us reach their vision for the region--a vision I agree with.  As Lindsay said, CMAP revises the study in 5 4 years anyway, so if the fiscal outlook is rosier in 2015, unconstrained projects could edge toward reality.

But, with apologies to Pink Floyd, this is the point I was trying to make: funding the priority projects is almost all meat (higher gas taxes, more tolling, etc.), while the unconstrained projects [pdf] are--or at least in my view should be--the pudding for Chicagoland.  We can't have our pudding--projects like the Heritage Corridor or the Mid-City Transitway (which goes suspiciously missing in the bullet-point list on page 197 because it's listed as part of the Cook-DuPage Corridor) if we don't eat our meat first--fix the system we've got.  But what incentive do we have to eat our meat if there's no pudding at the end?  (This is especially true considering we have politicians who tend to worry about their re-election chances more than the long term health of the region.)

Cropped 2040 Capital Projects.jpg

Mmmmm... Meat and pudding


So what would I like to see in the draft that isn't there now? (Beside the Mid-City Transitway?) Two things.  First, a more complete, prioritized description of the unconstrained projects.  CMAP includes a brief paragraph on the Illiana, Metra Southeast, Metra STAR, and Cook-DuPage Corridor projects.  Are these the top four unconstrained projects or merely four they chose to expand on and itemized in alphabetical order?  Secondly, are the unconstrained projects off the table until every priority project is finished?  If gas prices really spike in the next 2-3 years (to, say, $5.50/gallon), do we really want to add lanes to I-94, I-80, I-88, and managed lanes to I-55 before expanding Metra's reach?  I suppose that's what the 2015 revision is for, but I'd rather see the professionals at CMAP give us even a rough outline of these contingencies than wait and let politicians decide these matters.

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*Note: I'm reserving the right to comment on the inclusion of certain projects over others on the constrained list.  I'm trying to get the numbers to work out and want to take my time and get this right.  It's coming though, and in the meantime I just wanted to make clear that I'm not demanding we do all the unconstrained projects--just that they be given a higher profile in the draft plan.  Hope this makes everything copacetic.

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2 Comments

CTA Gray Line Project said:

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As always, Hyde Park ~ South Lakefront gets no
transit improvments.

jacksone44 said:

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Interesting post, and you have a very good point.

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