Planners hope federal funding will help ease local freight gridlock
After years of short-term extensions, Congress is talking about a multiyear transportation funding bill that could help the Chicago region untie its freight gridlock, planners hope.
The Senate's environment and public works committee this week passed a six-year $257.5 billion proposal, totaling about $43 billion a year.
Under the Senate plan, Illinois could see about $100 million more in 2016, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning officials said Thursday.
"There's a modest 3 percent spending increase and it creates certainty for six years," CMAP Executive Director Joseph Szabo said.
There are also new ideas, including a "national freight program" with allocations of $2 billion in 2016 and up to $2.5 billion in 2021 for highway and rail projects.
Another grant program sets aside $2.4 billion over six years for projects that reduce congestion, improve safety and fix freight and passenger movement.
"This could clearly benefit Chicago as we are a freight hub," Szabo said.
The Chicago region is working on a $3.8 billion program to build bridges and extra track to separate passenger and freight trains expediting travel, but it's about $2.6 billion short.
A separate bill funding Amtrak, however, appears to limit grants the railroad needs to fix a network of outdated tracks outside Union Station that cause delays.
"It's a mixed bag," Szabo said.