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Emanuel unveils infrastructure agenda without mentioning Infrastructure Trust

Mayor Rahm Emanuel. | AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday touted his accomplishments — and outlined his second-term agenda — for rebuilding Chicago’s crumbling infrastructure without ever mentioning the Infrastruture Trust he once described as pivotal to that effort.

Emanuel claimed credit for securing “roughly $700 million from Washington” for projects that range from rebuilding the CTA’s Red Line South and turning the 95th Street station into a “new jewel” to upgrading the Blue Line to O’Hare and building a new Green Line station at Cermak to serve McCormick Place and Motor Row.

Springfield contributed another $1.3 billion to those projects.

“This is one place where all Chicagoans can benefit from a mayor who won’t take `no’ for an answer and knows where the money is hidden and buried,” the mayor said in a luncheon address to the City Club of Chicago.

Emanuel has long argued that a “world-class city cannot have a 21st Century economy without a 21st century foundation.”

That’s the argument he made three years ago, when he persuaded a reluctant City Council to approve an Infrastructure Trust billed as a revolutionary change that would allow private investors to pump $1.7 billion into “transformative” infrastructure projects the city could not afford to build on its own.

On Thursday, the mayor did not mention the Infrastructure Trust that has gotten off to a painfully slow start.

Instead, he touted what he views as his greatest hits in the effort to rebuild an aging Chicago and described his goals for a second-term.

They include:

  • Completing the CTA’s new 95th Street station and making that the “starting point” for a long-awaited extension of the Red Line from 95th Street all the way to 130th Street. “We will continue planning for the future by strategically investing in an extension of the Red Line South by purchasing needed properties and working with our federal partners on funding opportunities,” the mayor said.
  • Continuing to overhaul the CTA’s bus fleet by purchasing 300 new buses, rehabbing 1,000 others and using “state-of-the-art traffic signal technologies, expanded bus lanes, redesigned streets and bus rapid transit to provide speedier service.
  • Rebuilding the North branch of the Red Line — by upgrading the Wilson Station and five other stations built during the Roosevelt administration.
  • Working to secure federal designation of Pullman as a National Park.
  • Seeking National Recreation Area Designation for the Calumet Region and connecting running and bike trails along the lakefront.
  • Completing the Bloomingdale Trail, then launching a community process to identify the “next great rails-to-trails opportunity” in neighborhoods like Pilsen, Little Village and Englewood.
  • Embarking on a $500 million overhaul of Union Station that will “breathe new life into that corner of the Near West Side.”
  • Delivering on his promise to make certain that every child in Chicago lives within a 10 minute walk of a park. When he talked about parks, the mayor even worked in a self-deprecating joke that, he claimed, originated with his wife, Amy. “I’m still learning to play with others,” he said as the audience laughed along with him.
  • Paving 1,200 miles of roads over the next four years—on top of the 1,000 he claims to have rebuilt in his first term.
  • Growing the popular Divvy bike-sharing program to 6,000 bikes by the end of a second term through expansion to South and West Side neighborhoods without it.
  • Delivering over the next four years on his promise to air-condition every Chicago Public School classroom.

Emanuel closed by arguing that it is “not an accident” that, since he embarked on his stepped-up plan to modernize roads, mass transit and airports, Chicago is the No. 1 city for families to return to live and the No. 1 city for corporation relocations and direct foreign investment.

“Modernizing our transportation system, modernizing our parks, modernizing our schools, broadband connections for every part of the city ensures that Chicago will continue to be a global leader,” he said.

“If we go back to the past of not investing in our infrastructure, Chicago will go back in time.”