Starved for new capital funding, the Regional Transportation Authority last week praised the Illinois General Assembly's passage and Gov. Pat Quinn's signing of a $9 billion capital program that provides $900 million for public transit.

"Before the governor and General Assembly took action yesterday, the state had not invested any capital dollars in transit in nearly five years," RTA executive director Steve Schlickman said in a statement Friday. "This is a great jump-start on our most pressing needs, but we have a lot of catching up to do. We need an ongoing state capital plan to address the significant needs of the system."

A total $26 billion program is being sought, but lawmakers last week approved a smaller $9 billion version that relies on $3 billion of new borrowing to more quickly leverage federal funding. The RTA has little bonding authority remaining after a five-year drought in new authorization.

The Chicago Transit Authority would receive nearly $500 million in funds, Metra commuter rail would get $290 million, Pace suburban bus service would receive $68 million, and para transit services would get a $45 million infusion. The RTA's service boards have $10 billion of long-term needs.

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