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The Illiana could be a train wreck for transit

For Immediate Release:
Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Max Muller
Active Transportation Alliance


The Illiana could be a train wreck for transit
Active Trans urges transit agencies to stand up to political pressure and reverse their votes on the Illiana Expressway

Chicago, IL—On October 4, two Chicagoland transit agencies, Metra and PACE, voted to support the construction of the proposed Illiana Expressway by adding it to the Go To 2040 plan, the regional plan for Chicagoland. Two more transit agencies, CTA and RTA, abstained from voting. With the transit agencies scheduled to vote again in the final, binding vote on Thursday, October 17, Ron Burke, Executive Director of the Active Transportation Alliance, made the following statement:

“The Active Transportation Alliance was profoundly surprised and disappointed that Metra and Pace voted to support Illiana Expressway, and that the CTA and RTA abstained. The transit agencies voted against their own interests, against transit riders’ interests and against the GoTo2040 regional plan, which rightly prioritizes multimodal transportation and investment in existing infrastructure.

“Building the Illiana Expressway could be a train wreck for public transportation in our region. We call for Metra and Pace to reverse their votes and for all four transit agencies to oppose the Illiana during the CMAP MPO Policy Committee vote on Thursday, October 17. We are pleased to have heard recently that the CTA will apparently vote No after completing its own internal review. Metra, Pace and the RTA should do the same.

“A vote for the Illiana is a vote against transit for two main reasons:

“Private funding is not going to cover the expressway’s full costs, which leaves taxpayers on the hook for upwards of one billion dollars. The Illiana would leave few transportation dollars available for a long list of CTA and Metra improvements, and two new transit projects—the red line south extension to 135th street and the West Loop Transit Center—dimming the prospect that they will ever be built.

“Secondly, the Illiana would divert people, commerce, and resources, away from existing urban development—and the enormous transit investments our region has already made in those areas—and promote sprawl in remote areas that are much more difficult and expensive to serve by transit. In fact, as the Chicago Tribune pointed out in an October 7 editorial, the justification for constructing the Illiana—to serve that sprawl—is the very scenario that the Go To 2040 plan seeks to avoid.

“In both of these ways, the Illiana puts at risk Go To 2040’s goal of doubling weekday transit ridership to 4 million trips per day by 2040. It does all of that in exchange for transporting fewer people each day than the buses currently serving Ashland Avenue in Chicago.

“Transit agencies should serve their rider’s best interests and oppose this project and advocate instead for solutions to a long list of funding problems they already face: funding insufficient to cover even 25 percent of the cost of keeping our buses, trains and rails in a state of good repair. Or the fact that four of our region’s top five job centers—including Naperville, Lombard, and Oak Brook—are not well served by rapid transit

“Pace has defended its vote, explaining that the Illiana will reduce congestion on the roads its buses use. But it’s hard to see how a road that is many miles from all but a few Pace bus routes will make a difference. Moreover, experience in Chicagoland, particularly in the exurbs where the Illiana would be located, shows that building new highways over time leads to more driving and minimal reductions in congestion. The CMAP staff analysis of the Illiana found the same.

“The transit agencies’ votes show how difficult it is for agencies to make good public policy when a powerful entity like the Illinois Department of Transportation controls transportation purse strings and has taken a strong position.

“At a time when the public trust in our transit agencies has been shaken by recent scandals, this is not the time for them to again bow to political pressure. We urge Metra, Pace, and the RTA to oppose the Illiana on October 17.”

The Active Transportation Alliance is a non-profit, member-based advocacy organization that works to make bicycling, walking and public transit so safe, convenient and fun that we will achieve a significant shift from environmentally harmful, sedentary travel to clean, active travel. The organization builds a movement around active transportation, encourages physical activity, increases safety and builds a world-class transportation network. The Active Transportation Alliance is North America’s largest transportation advocacy organization, supported by more than 7,000 members, 1,000 volunteers and 40 full-time staff. For more information on the Active Transportation Alliance, visit or call 312.427.3325.