A Lake Shore Drive reconstruction, an O’Hare express, an extension of the Red Line, and more electric vehicles are part of what Chicago-area transit planners expect from Biden’s infrastructure bill .

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Transit leaders in the region mentioned all of this and more today as, on a Zoom call, they first came together as a group to discuss what they will be looking for from the bill. President Joe Biden’s $ 2 trillion infrastructure.

The session, convened by House Transportation Committee representative Marie Newman, D-Chicago, highlighted both the potential and the challenge of allocating funds in what Newman called the “once-in-a-century” opportunity. ” invest money in projects that have often been nothing but dreams.

Almost everyone who spoke mentioned the word “regional,” a nod to concerns from businesses and other groups that the Chicago area will get the most benefit if it carefully refines its list and focuses on the real priorities. But it’s not clear who will play traffic cops, especially since each Illinois congressman has been asked to pitch 10 projects of their choice, aka “affections.”

CTA President Dorval Carter said his agency’s top priorities include funding the extension of the CTA Red Line – this is also a priority for another member of the Transport Committee, Representative Jesus ” Chuy “Garcia, D-Chicago – as well as the full electrification of CTA’s bus fleet. The agency also has $ 13 billion in deferred maintenance and related projects, he said, so “I have no shortage of projects that I can put on any (congressmen) list.” .

Metra CEO Jim Derwinski has repeatedly mentioned the separation of ground-level congestion points where Metra and freight trains intersect. Most of these programs are part of the Create project which has received partial but by no means full funding in recent years.

Derwinski said another of his priorities was to revive plans launched by former mayor Rahm Emanuel to build a high-speed link on the Metra’s tracks from the Loop to O’Hare, carrying passengers to trains in less than 15 minutes. He also wants to buy zero-emission locomotives.

Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi had a fairly long list of priorities. Included: $ 1.5 billion in sidewalks and other works to help people with disabilities, replacing 400 miles of lead water pipes and dealing with an “existential crisis” of erosion on the shores of the lake. Biagi confirmed that at least in part, this was a reference to the more than $ 3 billion plans to rebuild Lake Shore Drive north of Grand, something that would add considerable space to the park and the beach to absorb the high waves.

Biagi also pushed hard for the city’s Vision Zero project to build protected cycle lanes, add pedestrian islands and redesign streets to better control car and truck traffic.

Deputy Governor Christian Mitchell has suggested that the state wants the new program to complement Governor JB Pritzker’s major infrastructure program. Some of the items at the top of Mitchell’s list include repairing dilapidated bridges and roads, expanding broadband, and pushing for more electric vehicles like Rivian’s plans in Normal.

All of this would be funded by a Biden program that now plans to spend $ 174 billion on electric vehicles, $ 115 billion on roads and bridges, $ 85 billion on public transportation and $ 80 billion on roads. iron, including Amtrak.

In addition to the above, individual House members will have the opportunity to come up with their own plans, Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., Said on the call. Members are now preparing lists with Newman, for example, talking about relaunching plans to expand CTA’s Orange Line to Ford City in his district.

DeFazio did not say how those lists would be prioritized, or whether the Senate had agreed to follow them.

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