The Regional Transportation Authority of Illinois board has elected John Gates Jr. to serve as its new chairman, filling the vacancy left by Jim Reilly who resigned in May to serve as the special trustee overseeing reforms at the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority.

Gates, who is chief executive officer at the private investment company PortaeCo LLC, formerly served as chairman of MetPier. A new, interim board was put in place at MetPier following the General Assembly’s approval of reform legislation. Gates will serve a five-year term.

“John Gates brings an exemplary career track record in the investment business. His noteworthy expertise in finance and infrastructure can’t be overstated or under-utilized, especially at this critical juncture in our transit system’s history,” RTA board member Dwight Magalis said in a statement.

The RTA recently received $442 million in long-awaited Illinois bonding proceeds for capital projects, representing the first installment of $2.7 billion of transit funding in the state’s capital budget. The RTA will distribute $253 million to the Chicago Transit Authority, $157 million to Metra commuter rail, and $32 million to PACE suburban bus service. The RTA provides oversight of the three agencies.

The RTA and its service boards have struggled to meet both operational and capital needs, although a sales tax increase last year helped on the operations side. State delays in aid for operations prompted the authority recently to issue $140 million in working cash-flow notes.

All three rating agencies downgraded the RTA’s $2.3 billion of debt ahead of that sale due to its revenue woes and state payment delays exceeding $300 million. The agency is rated AA-minus with a negative outlook by Fitch Ratings, AA and stable by Standard & Poor’s, and Aa3 and stable by Moody’s Investors Service.

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