U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin was joined by U.S. Reps. Bobby Rush and Dan Lipinski as they lambasted House Republicans for cutting a project already underway to build a rail bridge on Chicago's South Side that would alleviate traffic caused by Metra, Amtrak, and other freight trains.
The Metra board voted unanimously to name Alex Clifton the new CEO of the transit service, replacing Phil Pagano who killed himself last year following revelations that he had embezzled money from the agency.
Congress is likely to take up debate about a new federal transportation bill some time early this year. "It seems like it will come this session of Congress for a couple of reasons," Transportation For America spokesman David Goldberg said. "One, the president has been working on his own proposal for
authorization ... it's supposed to be presented around the same time as
the introduction of the budget, around the middle of next month. The
other piece is the incoming chair of the House transportation committee
John Mica has said he plans to introduce a bill this spring."
The last transportation bill coming out of D.C. passed in 2003, and renewed legislation will give Chicago-area elected officials and planners the chance to apply for sorely-needed federal dollars to tackle the city and region's backlog of capital projects. Consider that the Chicago Transit Authority estimated in its latest budget (PDF) that the system's unfunded capital needs totaled $6.8 billion. The agency, buffeted in recent years by crisis after crisis, is using those scarce capital resources to fund daily (and diminished) operations.
This morning in Roseland, Rahm Emanuel said if he is elected mayor his first priority for CTA would be improving the Red Line and extending it south to 130th, a project that's been discussed locally since at least 2006. Emanuel, who earlier this week highlighted his connections to high-flying ex-pols like President Bill Clinton, argued he had the most experience (and toughest personality) to brawl for federal and state dollars, and match them to local funds. Take a look:
Would Emanuel's deep D.C. history help him bring more federal bacon above and beyond what any of the other mayoral candidates could achieve? It's impossible to say for certain. Regardless of those dynamics, more of the mayoral contenders need to talk about mass transit and transportation issues. They have been largely ignored thus far during this campaign.