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U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood swung through Chicago this afternoon as part of a national tour to publicize federal stimulus funding for transportation projects. Joining Governor Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel for a press conference outside at the CTA’s Logan Square stop in frigid, blustery weather, LaHood heralded a $20 million TIGER III (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant for Chicago.

According to the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), $16 million will go towards fixing slow zones on the Blue Line between Belmont and Damen, in combination with money for the project from a CTA operating surplus. This work will allow trains to travel more than twice as fast in some locations, cutting the travel time from the Loop to O’Hare by several minutes.

The remaining $4 million of the grant will go towards Chicago’s new bike sharing system, slated to launch next summer. Added to the project’s existing $18 million Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) funding that will pay for the first 3,000 bikes and 300 docking stations, the TIGER money will allow the city to eventually add 1,000 additional bikes and 100 more stations.

Chicago originally applied for a total of $50 million in TIGER III funds, $40 million for the Blue Line and $10 million for the bike share system, according to CDOT. Here’s a transcript of LaHood’s remarks at the press conference.

Hello everybody. Thank you for being out here. It was not my idea to hold this here. I e-mailed the mayor yesterday and I said make sure this is inside. So look what happens. I deliver a big check and get no respect. He wrote back and said, “With more money we’ll go inside.”

Well, thank you all for being here. I am delighted to be here. We are announcing more than 40 TIGER grants around the country today. I started out in Philadelphia with the mayor there, I just came from Cincinnati with the mayor there but I don’t know if there’s another place I’d rather be than back in Illinois with so many friends.

So I’m thrilled to announce and share that President Obama’s administration is announcing $511 million in what’s known as the highly sought-after TIGER grants, months ahead of schedule, including $20 million to help create and improve transportation choices here in the Windy City.

We’re helping to make critical repairs at the O’Hare Branch of the El’s Blue Line, making track improvements between the Loop and the airport. And we’re helping to expand the city’s bike sharing program by adding stations and also the opportunity for people to bike around the community.

And all this reflects something much larger. I think everybody knows somebody that’s out of work, everybody perhaps has a family member that’s out of work and our goal at the Department of Transportation under President Obama’s leadership is to put America back to work. That’s what this TIGER program does.

This is an innovative approach for people around the nation to have opportunities to come to the Department of Transportation. We’ve created innovative approaches to really solving transportation problems and really looking at opportunities to put people back to work. That’s what our money really does.

Earlier on the president proposed a huge transportation opportunity and Congress passed it up. Then the president proposed the American Jobs Act, which had $50 billion dollars for transportation and $10 billion for infrastructure but the Congress has passed that up. Look, I’m a Republican, I served in Congress as a Republican, but I say to my former colleagues on the Republican side, if you want to put friends and neighbors back to work, pass a transportation bill – that’s what America really needs.

Frankly, the transportation bill has been held up by Republicans in Congress, who for some reason don’t believe in the rich history of Congress, that transportation is bi-partisan, it always has been. When I was in Congress I served on the transportation committee for six years. We passed two transportation bills with over 400 votes in the House and over 80 votes in the Senate. We know this TIGER money that we’re announcing in Chicago will put Chicagoans to work. And if Congress were to pass a transportation bill, thousands of Americans would go to work. With the $48 billion that we received under economic stimulus, we created 6,500 jobs and 1,500 projects around America.

And under TIGER I and TIGER II we have put Americans to work, thanks to our friends in mayors offices and governors offices who have big visions and big plans. So our message is, we like coming to places like Chicago and Illinois and working with our friends in government and in the community, ‘cause we know we’ll put friends and neighbors to work. And we’re saying to Congress, there’s still a few days left. Pass a transportation bill. Put America to work. Take politics out of it – politics have never been involved in transportation.

And so with that I want to say a special thanks to Illinois’ governor, Pat Quinn. Pat has been a special partner for us at the DOT, especially in our high-speed rail initiative. He’s one of the governors that has really stepped up. Over $2 billion is invested in high-speed rail in America because of Pat Quinn’s leadership and his vision, the same vision that President Obama has.

I also want to say a word about Mayor Emanuel. He has been a leader and what we’re announcing here today has been part of what he’s talked about, giving people good opportunities to ride on trains that can deliver them to their jobs and to their grocery stores and to their doctor appointments. Two great leaders for America, two great leaders for Illinois.

With that, Governor Quinn, thanks for all your leadership on transportation and in particular on high-speed rail. And to Mayor Emanuel, thank you for your leadership in getting people out of their cars and onto good transit.

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  • http://twitter.com/aka60643 AKA60643

    This news is like an early Christmas gift.  Thanks for sharing it with us.

    • http://gridchicago.com John Greenfield

      Sure thing. Of course it would have been nicer to get the $50 million we applied for (and then maybe Rahm would have held the press conference indoors), but, as they say, half a loaf is better than none!