Transportation bill update for March 2nd, 2012


Photos by Jane Healy. 

Update March 5, 2012: Cloture vote is Tuesday, March 6th, via Smart Growth America

Republican leadership in the House has essentially admitted that their multi-year surface transportation bill needs to be reworked. Read all our past coverage on it. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, our region’s metropolitan planning organization, is doing a great job keeping up with this on their blog and in their weekly newsletter. From today’s newsletter:

Transportation reauthorization update. This week, the U.S. House of Representatives discussed replacing their initial 5-year reauthorization bill, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act (AEIJA), with a reduced 18-month program.

This proposal would fund federal transportation programs through mid-2013, and would reconnect mass transit funding to the Highway Trust Fund. Also this week, the U.S. Senate failed to advance one of the non-germane amendments that have been attached to Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century [MAP-21, the Senate’s version of a surface transportation bill]), the two-year reauthorization bill. Senate Majority Leader Reid announced that he intends to file cloture on the substitute amendment to MAP-21 [cloture requires 60 votes to pass – the Democratic caucus controls only 53 seats]. The vote is scheduled for March 6.

Read more on their Policy Updates blog.

What else is happening? The Senate has included the Cardin-Cochrane amendment that gives metro areas control over bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure spending.


The House of Representatives cannot get away with passing a bill that leaves us empty train tracks. 

Federal government update: Clean air legislation and surface transportation bill


“rot” may be the new state of transit if the House of Representatives passes two transportation bills that affect the entire nation. Photo by Eric Rogers. 

This is a quick update on two federal government topics I’ve been following: the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was proposing to make the Chicago region an “attainment zone”, meaning we’d meet our pollution reduction goals (for just particulate matter) and that we would lose our eligibility for Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds (CMAQ) – see the original post. But those funds may not be so protected, if the House Republicans have their say and are able to pass H.R.3864, the new surface transportation bill – see the original post. Continue reading Federal government update: Clean air legislation and surface transportation bill

Grid Shots: Water taxi edition


A Chicago Water Taxi travels south on the Chicago River from Ping Tom Park in Chinatown, just south of 18th Street, towards downtown. Photo by Eric Pancer. 

Are water taxis part of sustainable transportation?

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) helped Chicago Water Taxi (Wendella) get a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant to buy a new boat in 2000. It’s easy to understand their efforts to reduce congestion on the road if people who normally drive the route of a water taxi now take the boat. And same for the air quality if the emissions of its engine, measured in person-miles, is better than that of an automobile. But what about its influence on water quality? The Environmental Protection Agency describes all the ways in which boating pollutes water. An article in the Active Transportation Alliance’s Mode Shift newsletter explained water taxi transportation as another local transit option. Continue reading Grid Shots: Water taxi edition

Grid Shots: The variety of pedestrian bridges over Lake Shore Drive

A reader on our Facebook page suggested we feature the 35th Street pedestrian bridge, over the Illinois Central railroad tracks and connected to a second bridge over Lake Shore Drive, in this week’s Grid Shots*. Here’re several other interesting and, in some cases, dilapidated pedestrian bridges over Lake Shore Drive. All photos are by Eric Rogers, who contributes many of his great photos to our Flickr group.

3500 S Lake Shore Drive


The 35th Street pedestrian bridge is particularly uninviting; it links the neighborhood at 35th and Cottage Grove to the Lakefront Trail. It should have been replaced by now. Continue reading Grid Shots: The variety of pedestrian bridges over Lake Shore Drive

Air quality attainment update from CMAP


The Millennium Park Bike Station is one of thousands of projects funded in part by Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grants. 

From the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning newsletter:

As we told you last week [here’s our article], our region faces harm to its air quality and a significant loss of federal transportation funding if the U.S. EPA follows through on its intention to ignore current, certified 2011 data and rule that northeastern Illinois is “in attainment” with the agency’s 2008 guidelines for air quality. Among the many Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) projects that would lose funding is Pace’s $38.4 million express bus service along the Jane Addams Tollway as part of its upcoming reconstruction, which is identified as a high priority of GO TO 2040. We urge you to contact U.S. EPA and members of Congress, calling on the federal regulators to consider the up-to-date 2011 data, which clearly indicate our region has actually not attained the 2008 air standards. The U.S. EPA comment period has begun with publication of a December 20 notice in the Federal Register (marked as “40 CFR Part 81”), which includes details of how to make your views known. We have also created a sample letter for commenters.

Continue reading Air quality attainment update from CMAP

Value Capture: Financing sustainable transportation


Portions of the North/Clybourn Red Line station were completely rebuilt using funds contributed by Apple in an example of joint development – a value capture financing tool. Photo by Kevin Zolkiewicz.

Ed. note: Jason Saavedra was a fellow student at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs. He is now a planning, policy and communications consultant and writes for a blog called the Terre Haute Project in Terre Haute, Indiana. -Steven

As a nation, we are not investing enough money in our transportation infrastructure. We pay for transit, sidewalks, roads, and trails using a set per-gallon fuel tax – an unsustainable revenue source (see note 1) – and the recently proposed MAP-21 surface transportation bill does not propose any new fees or tax increases to ensure that federal money will be available to pay the cost of maintaining our transportation system.

The unsustainable nature of our current transportation funding system is not really news,  and Grid Chicago readers are particularly well-informed: we discussed the shortfalls of “traditional” transportation funding in a recent series of posts. But what may be news to you is that forward-thinking local communities are choosing to go the DIY route: they are looking for innovative ways to pay for needed infrastructure investment themselves.

This is where Value Capture (VC) comes into play. Continue reading Value Capture: Financing sustainable transportation