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updated: 9/27/2011 4:50 PM

Pace likely to get millions for I-90 bus rapid transit

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Pace is on a cusp of receiving up to $48 million in federal funding to pay for a system of express buses in the Northwest suburbs using the I-90 corridor.

The grant from the federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality program must first be approved by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, an action expected to occur in October.

"It's a huge opportunity for Pace, and we're ready," agency spokesman Patrick Wilmot said. "It will take a few years to come to fruition, but there's a lot of support and a lot of excitement behind it."

The funding would jump-start a long-anticipated public transit component along the Jane Addams Tollway (I-90). Pace is collaborating with the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, which intends to widen and rebuild I-90 between the Kennedy Expressway and Rockford.

Pace is seeking about $48.7 million in funding for a bus rapid transit system. So far, it appears the agency will be awarded $38 million between 2012 and 2015. The remainder has been recommended for 2016 but is not guaranteed. "Our understanding is that if work progresses on time and the funds from the first four years are used effectively, there should be no problem receiving the final year of funding," Wilmot said.

The grant will be used to purchase buses and buy land for park-and-ride facilities, plus engineering and construction.

At this point, park-and-ride stops for the buses along I-90 would be located at Barrington Road, Route 59, Route 25 and Randall Road, Wilmot said.

New proposed bus routes include: Palatine to Schaumburg, Elgin to the Rosemont River Road CTA stop, Elgin to Schaumburg, Addison to Schaumburg, and the Rosemont River Road CTA stop to Prairie Stone in Hoffman Estates.

Pace officials estimate the new program would eliminate 1,025 vehicle trips a day.

For years, planners had hoped to create a suburb-to-suburb commuter rail service, the STAR line, operated by Metra along the I-90 corridor and on the former EJ&E Railway tracks. But since the costs of such a project are prohibitive, bus rapid transit makes more sense now, officials agree.

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