Red Line Run

Chicago Transit Authority races to beat Trump inauguration to secure funding

Chicago Transit Authority races to beat Trump inauguration to secure funding. (MD111/Flickr)

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is anxious to receive a $1.1-billion federal grant before President-elect Donald Trump takes office. Officials believe that the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Core Capacity grant could be awarded under either administration, but would rather not take the chance with a DOT under new leadership.

The federal grant would be used to help rebuild the north branch of the Red and Purple Line L tracks. A major part of securing that grant is to have a source of funding in place to help cover the difference between the awarded money and the needed money. The city plans to use a tax-increment financing district (TIF) to raise another $800 million over the next three decades.

Some see Trump’s pick to lead the transportation transition team as a sign that public transportation money may be harder to come by under his new administration. Trump’s pick, Martin Whitmer, is the chairman of a lobbying firm that represents the National Asphalt Paving Association and the Association of American Railroads. He was also the deputy chief of staff at U.S. DOT under President George W. Bush. He has also worked as a lobbyist for the American Road and Transportation Builders Association. (Elaine Chao is Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Transportation during his administration.)

The CTA did point out that the reconstruction of the Brown Line in the mid-2000s was achieved under the Bush administration, with Whitmer working at the DOT. Public transportation advocates are still uneasy about the Whitmer’s connections to pro-highway and road associations.

Chicago and the CTA presented evidence of additional funding, including the TIF district, for the project on November 30th. Which was also the date that the TIF district was legally allowed to take effect under the state’s legislation. If the current petition for funding is funding is approved, the decision would be made by January 15, just five days before Trump takes office.

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