CHICAGO - The Chicago region needs $16.6 billion over the next decade for routine transit maintenance and capital spending with another $19.5 billion needed to cover deferred investment, the Regional Transportation Authority warned.

The warning comes in the agency's new capital asset condition assessment study which examines the current physical condition of assets and capital needs over the next decade.

The tab for routine capital spending, maintenance, and replacement needs totals $1.66 billion annually, or $16.6 billion for the decade. The long-term $19.5 billion list of backlogged projects is separate. Combined, the figure is up $3 billion over last year.

"With the Chicago area operating some of the oldest equipment of any mass transit system in the nation, it's critical that significant reinvestment is made to attain and maintain our system in a state of good repair," said RTA Executive Director Leanne Redden.

The agency attributes the growing burden to underinvestment in recent years as the agency's service boards struggled with operating deficits and shrinking state and federal dollars. The situation will worsen without a significant increase in the amount of capital funding, the report warned.

The capital needs of the Chicago Transit Authority account for 62% of the total while Metra commuter rail's capital needs account for $32.4% and Pace suburban bus service's capital needs account for 6.3%.

The RTA will receive between $563 million and $765 million annually over the next 20 years in aid, about half of what will be needed to assure the region's capital backlog doesn't mount. The agency has compensated for faltering aid through loans through the Transportation Infrastructure and Innovation Act, local funding, borrowing of its own, and state borrowing.

Federal formula funding sources are relatively predictable and stable but the availability of federal discretionary, state and local funding sources are not, the agency warned.

The RTA stressed that while new funds are needed its service boards are managing with current revenues to operate safely. "CTA, Metra and Pace are operating well, especially when compared to other cities, but without upgrades and repairs, it will cost the service boards more in the long run to operate day to day," Redden said.

The agency has in the past pushed for greater bonding authority. It has just limited capacity under existing statutes to borrow. The agency is expected to again make a pitch to state lawmakers and new Gov. Bruce Rauner for additional financial support, either through its own borrowing ability or in a new state capital budget.

The RTA entered the year with a $2.9 billion operating budget and $3.8 billion five-year capital program that relies on federal funds and loans, and borrowings including inaugural issues from two of its service boards.

Redden said bond issuance and a federal TIFIA loan to CTA will help support the 2015 capital budget. The five-year plan anticipates $2.5 billion in federal funds, $300 million in Metra issuance, $145 million in CTA borrowing, $88 million in Pace bonding, at least $100 million in RTA borrowing, and $557 million in TIFIA support for CTA projects.

The double-A rated RTA will issue $100 million in 2015. The RTA pledges its full faith and credit to the bonds and its allocation of regional sales tax collections and public transportation funds. The CTA capital plan relies on the sale of at least $145 million of sales tax backed bonds in the coming years.

Pace soon will sell $12 million of local government program revenue bonds to finance the conversion of a south suburban facility that services its fleet to use compressed natural gas fuel. Pace recently floated a $2.3 billion plan to establish a network of suburban bus routes and has submitted it to Congress to apply for federal help.

Metra plans its market debut in 2015 with a $100 million issue. Metra's borrowing proposal was unveiled earlier last fall as part of a proposed $2.4 billion, 10-year capital program.

The RTA's service boards move about 2 million riders daily; it is the third largest transit system in the nation.

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