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updated: 9/18/2013 5:34 AM

RTA fails to reach funding agreement

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  • Daily Herald File Photo The RTA board is experiencing yet another funding crisis.

    Daily Herald File Photo The RTA board is experiencing yet another funding crisis.


Frustration pervaded a special Regional Transportation Authority meeting Tuesday as directors failed to reach a deal on funding for Metra, Pace and the CTA, and the mood wasn't improved by the RTA claiming the Chicago Transit Authority owed it $56 million.

Twelve votes are required to set funding levels for Metra, Pace and the CTA, but with the four RTA directors representing Chicago opposing a late-breaking, supposed consensus plan, the 10 votes in favor by suburban directors fell short.

"It may not be everything everyone wants, but it's the most agreed-upon so far," Chairman John S. Gates said.

While the RTA's attorney argued the agency would violate state law if it didn't finalize funding by mid-September, several directors countered it was better to miss the deadline than vote on last-minute compromises they had only just seen. Similar delays occurred in 2012, and "no one went to RTA jail," Director James Buchanan of Chicago said.

The friction boils down to not enough money for transit and differences on how the money should be divided.

Two of six funding options discussed Tuesday would give the CTA $50 million, Metra $45 million and Pace $5 million of a $100 million RTA bond issue, $185 million to the CTA and $3.8 million to Pace of "discretionary funds"; and out of $9.8 million from the RTA's reserve -- $8.2 million to the CTA, $900,000 to Metra and $700,000 to Pace.

But consensus fell apart on whether to give Metra an extra $4.2 million in 2015 and whether to approve a formula giving the CTA the lion's share of discretionary funds in 2015 and 2016.

"We're working with the RTA and service boards to come up with a solution we all favor," Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said.

"We're disappointed that Metra appears to be holding up the budget process by not supporting (one plan) that had the backing of the other three agencies," Pace spokesman Patrick Wilmot said.

The funding formulas weren't the only disconnect surfacing Tuesday. Although RTA administrators told board members Pace was on board with the plan that gives Metra extra funding in 2015 (dubbed Option F), Pace officials said that was incorrect.

"Pace has not pledged support of option F; we have not had an opportunity to evaluate it," Wilmot said.

The board also differed over $56 million the RTA borrowed in 2009 for the CTA and whether it was a loan, which RTA staff say it was, or a grant with several directors requesting documents to back up administrators' claims.

Meanwhile, after withholding budget documents under discussion from reporters until the meeting was nearly over, RTA administrators refused to comment to the media.

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