CHICAGO - In a push to boost support for a proposed $25 billion capital program pending before Illinois legislators, elected officials and civic leaders yesterday highlighted a new report that quantifies the annual savings in gas, oil, time, and pollution from the public's use of the existing public transportation systems.
Usage of the Chicago-area system results in the annual savings of $723 million that otherwise would be spent on gas and preserves 276 gallons of oil, according to the report A Better Way to Go: Meeting America's 21st Century Transportation Challenges with Modern Public Transit released yesterday by the public advocacy group, Illinois Public Interest Research Group.
Nationally, in 2006 transit use saved roughly 3.4 million gallons of gasoline and $9 billion that might otherwise have gone to pay for gas. The usage saved 541 million hours of traffic delays and reduced global warming pollution by 26 million tons. For every dollar spent on transit, two are saved from reduced vehicle expenses, congestion, global warming, road spending, and other traffic-related expenses.
"This report shows why it would be a mistake to not meet our transit infrastructure needs," state Rep. Julie Hamos, D-Evanston, and chair of the Illinois House Mass Transit Committee, said at a news conference. "A capital funding bill would make it possible to keep our system in a state of good repair and also consider future expansions."
Congressional members have warned that without an infusion of capital cash, the state risks losing federal matching dollars. "If Springfield doesn't provide the needed $2.7 billion match, we could lose more than $4.1 billion in federal money to other states such as California, Pennsylvania and Florida," said U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill. "To keep Chicago's economy strong, we need to invest in projects like Metra's STAR Line to reduce congestion and improve the environment."
Proponents also warned that an improved transit system is needed to promote Chicago's efforts in the international competition to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich has proposed a $25 billion capital budget dubbed Illinois Works that would provide $4.9 billion for K-8 and higher education, $14.4 billion for roads and bridges, $2.7 billion for transit, $1.1 billion for energy and environmental projects, $1 billion for economic development projects, $600 million for state facilities, and $500 million for airports and rail.
To fund the plan, the governor has proposed a mix of borrowing and the use of some proceeds from a privatization of the Illinois Lottery. Lawmakers had previously proposed expanding gaming in the state to raise revenues to pay off new borrowing. Bipartisan support is strong for a new capital program, but Blagojevich and lawmakers have clashed on most issues and some are concerned passage of a capital budget will remain elusive amid continued bickering.