Metra, O'Hare win, high-speed rail loses in new U.S. budget bill
Crain's Chicago Business
More details are coming out about who got what in the new omnibus federal appropriations bill for the rest of fiscal 2014, which overwhelmingly passed the House yesterday and is expected to clear the Senate by the weekend.
As I reported the other day, one big local winner is the Chicago Transit Authority, which hopes to get a chunk of $120 million set aside for so-called core capacity projects to fund work on the Red and Purple train lines.
But there are other winners and potential winners here — and a loser.
AMONG THE WINNERS
In the "win" column is Metra. It faces deadlines to install an expensive new fail-safe train system known as Positive Track Control, but lacks the money. The big appropriations bill creates a pot of $60 million for safety projects that officials could use for PTC grants, reports U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Chicago, who along with colleague Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Chicago, and other area lawmakers has been pressing for federal funds.
Mr. Quigley reports that the bill makes available so-called Tiger grants — Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery — for infrastructure projects. That's a prime source being eyed by developers of the proposed Elgin-O'Hare Expressway to create western access to the airport.
In addition, the Water Reclamation District got another $25.5 million for ongoing work on the Deep Tunnel flood control project.
ON THE LOSER END: HIGH-SPEED RAIL
One group that's not happy: fans of Amtrak and high-speed rail.
Fast trains were zeroed out in the budget compromise. The Midwest High Speed Rail Association said in a statement that amounts to "sabotaging the economic future of cities and towns all across the United States."
The group also zapped the "pittance" being given to Amtrak. Mr. Lipinski's office says operating subsidies for Amtrak will go down, but funding for capital work will rise almost as much as the subsidy cuts. Those operating cuts are not as onerous as they seem, since the latest rule changes make it easier for Amtrak to tap capital accounts to pay operating needs.
In addition, some of that Tiger money might be able to be used for high-speed or other rail projects. We'll see.
There's always next year. This bill covers spending through Sept. 30.
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