Emanuel calls Gov. Rauner’s proposed transit cuts ‘bad economics’

SHARE Emanuel calls Gov. Rauner’s proposed transit cuts ‘bad economics’
SHARE Emanuel calls Gov. Rauner’s proposed transit cuts ‘bad economics’

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CTA President Forrest Claypool went on the offensive against Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget Wednesday, with the mayor charging that state cuts to transit would return the CTA to the days of “stealing from Peter to pay Paul.”

“The governor’s strategy is bad economics, bad job growth, and it’s wrong for the state of Illinois and most importantly it’s wrong for the city of Chicago, and I won’t stand for it,” Emanuel told reporters after a roundtable discussion with business leaders.

Claypool warned that “it looks as if” the Chicago Transit Authority would lose even more than the $105 million a year it originally projected under Rauner’s proposal, but he was waiting for further calculations from the Regional Transportation Authority.

Initial estimates indicated the RTA would lose $130 million a year of the funds it distributes to the CTA, Metra and Pace. The CTA originally calculated its share of those cuts at $105 million.

After the CTA’s monthly board meeting Wednesday, Claypool told reporters “there was some initial confusion” about what Rauner proposed, and the RTA is now taking a closer look at the matter.

“I don’t want to say what it is until we know exactly but when we look at the governor’s proposal, it appears that the cuts are higher than [$105 million to the CTA] but until we nail that down with the RTA, I don’t want to speculate,” Claypool said.

Claypool would not say whether such drastic reductions in CTA revenue would trigger fare increases or services cuts. The mayoral runoff of his boss and friend, Emanuel, is less than a month away.

The CTA will be “working with our allies in Springfield” to oppose the cuts, Claypool said. But he predicted that “we have a battle here to ensure the interests of the transit community are protected.”

Claypool said the CTA should be “rewarded and not punished” for wringing out the waste, restoring the CTA to sounder financial practices, and launching a $5 billion modernization program that is speeding up rail commutes and renovating or building rail stations across the city.

With the CTA no longer using operating funds to bankroll capital projects, “We have worked very hard to eliminate ‘doomsdays’ from the CTA lexicon,” Claypool said.

“It’s really short-sighted to say you are going to throw in a monkey wrench and basically punish the CTA for doing the types of things that Gov. Rauner says he wants, which is efficient, effective government,” Claypool said.

“Mass transit is a job creator and a revenue generator,” and should be “one of the last places you should look to attack in a budget process,” he said.

The CTA’s modernization program has created “thousands and thousands of jobs that’s grown the economy, that’s improved quality of life in our communities and is generating additional tax revenue as a result because people have jobs and money in their pockets and they are spending it and house values go up and all kinds of good things happen,” Claypool said.

Emanuel said the CTA is investing in transit improvements across the city and “we’re finally moving forward. . . . We no longer take money out of capital to meet operating expenses. This would be back to the politics where you are stealing from Peter to pay Paul.”

Also Wednesday, CTA board members approved a $25.6 million contract to renovate the next five stations scheduled for upgrades as part of the $492 million Your New Blue project.

Blue Line stations slated for improvements are Addison, Irving Park, Montrose, Harlem and Cumberland. Work should start this fall and be “substantially completed” by the fall 2016, CTA officials said.

The first station slated for improvements is Addison, which will see the most extensive work. Its station house will be extended, an elevator installed and its stairway will be enclosed.

Generally, the work includes improvements to platforms and platform canopies and repairs or replacement of existing windbreaks and furniture.

F.H. Paschen and S.N. Nielsen won the $25.6 million contract for the five stations.

All five will remain open during the work, except for a small number of weekend-only closures at Addison and Montrose.

The four-year, $492 million Your New Blue project involves upgrading tracks and signals from O’Hare to downtown. Higher speed 4G will be included, even in CTA tunnels. The improvements should shave 10 minutes off a Blue Line trip from O’Hare to downtown.

The latest work follows last year’s rehabs to the Damen, Western and California stations.

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