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RTA deal means transit won't grind to halt in Chicago

Officials at the Regional Transportation Authority were warning in recent days that Chicago area mass transit systems were at risk of grinding to a halt early next year.

But that scenario was sent to the back of the bus Wednesday morning when the RTA board unanimously ended a standoff over the allocation of the RTA’s so-called discretionary funds.

RTA Executive Director Joseph Costello said be believes the agreement will give the “service boards” – the CTA, Metra and Pace – sufficient time to draw up their own budgets so the the RTA can sign off by the deadline of Dec. 31.

“This puts us on a reasonable track to get our budgets resolved,” Costello said.

The vote, which was supposed to come by Sept. 15, tells each service board how much money they will get next year so they can plan their budgets. The RTA never had missed the Sept. 15 deadline before. An earlier deal that looked solid at midnight last Wednesday had fallen apart by 8 a.m. the next morning.

RTA Chairman John S. Gates said the best part of the vote is that no one faction on the 16-person board – city, suburban Cook County or the collar counties – tried to hold out against it. The process was stalled earlier when Chicago board members refused to accept an RTA recommendation for distribution of discretionary funds, arguing they wanted more the the CTA.

The deal also will allow the RTA to resume pushing a $2.5 billion bond sale the agency says is needed to update public transit and catch up on deferred maintenance.

Read the RTA agenda.pdf and ordinance from this morning’s special meeting.

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