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posted: 8/13/2012 5:24 PM

RTA chief urges businesses to emphasize transit

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  • Money's tight to keep transit in a state of good repair, RTA officials say.

      Money's tight to keep transit in a state of good repair, RTA officials say.
    DANIEL WHITE | Staff Photographer


Although Congress just passed a two-year transportation funding bill, it's time to start pressuring lawmakers to do a better job next time around, RTA Executive Director Joe Costello told Naperville business leaders Monday.

The amount of funding transit received in the most recent federal legislation isn't enough to take care of the Metra, Pace and CTA systems' needs, Costello said. From old train cars to outdated stations, the agencies face a backlog of repairs and replacements in the billions of dollars, Regional Transportation Authority officials note.

"We're looking for your support to contact members of Congress," Costello said to Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce members. "We need to get out in front and establish transit's importance and that it needs to be funded."

The RTA, which has financial oversight of the CTA, Metra and Pace, has mounted a lobbying campaign to convince federal lawmakers to prioritize transit when they put together the next transportation bill.

The problem is the highway trust fund that pays for highways and transit comes from an 18.4 cent a gallon gas tax that hasn't increased since 1993. As costs rise and gas use decreases with more fuel-efficient vehicles, the fund's "purchasing power has been plummeting," Costello said.

The RTA is targeting the federal government, which pays for the lion's share of transit capital costs, Costello said.

"The state's been on again, off again," he said.

As for a specific idea on how to shore up the highway trust fund -- a proposal is under development, RTA officials said.

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