CTA Forecasts $8 Billion in Capital Needs

CHICAGO – An $8 billion capital investment is needed in the next five years in order to allow the CTA to continue to provide safe and reliable service and meet growing transit need, CTA’s vice-president of capital programs said.

The announcement came after an Aug. 9 Chicago Transit Board meeting. Including all planned rail line extensions would increase the figure to more than $10 billion.

Of the projected $8 billion need, CTA staff has identified about $2.2 billion that could be available through federal funding or CTA-issued bonds, leaving a potential unfunded need at $5.8 billion. A decision on an anticipated state capital program could help narrow the gap, officials say.

“The right capital investments can decrease operating costs, increase reliability and improve overall service quality,” said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Carole Brown. “With record gas prices making public transit an increasingly attractive option, it is important to understand the big picture so that CTA, its customers and all those who take an interest in CTA activities can see what level of service is possible with a solid investment and, alternatively, what is likely without one.”

Projects include replacing and rehabbing aging buses and trains to improve reliability and customer comfort; retrofitting rail cars with cameras to enhance customer safety and system security; rebuilding train stations to increase circulation and accessibility; upgrading the public address system to offer timely and clear information during service disruptions; upgrading signal and communications system to improve system reliability; and extending the Red, Orange and Yellow lines.

The CTA’s last capital assessment identified $5.1 billion of needed projects. The updated figure resulted from an 18-month assessment that the CTA started to prepare for a successor capital program to Illinois FIRST, also contributing was a directive from the Illinois State Auditor General that the CTA review its operations and management, including its capital program. The result is the CTA’s most comprehensive needs assessment in nearly 10 years.

The CTA’s long-standing capital goal is to reach what is known in the transit industry as a “State of Good Repair.” It requires that equipment and facilities are upgraded and replaced in a timely manner and that service management systems should be modern and reliable.

“Although we constantly invest in improvements to our fleet and facilities, the fact remains that some of our infrastructure and facilities are more than 100 years old, and all of it is aging year after year. To achieve and maintain a state of good repair requires continued investment,” said CTA President Frank Kruesi. “We run a 24/7 operation with a heavy and growing daily demand. Timely maintenance and replacement of aging assets is necessary to keep trains and buses running, to keep our facilities safe and efficient, to incorporate technologies that will improve service for our customers, and to control future costs.”

In recent years the CTA has made significant progress in its capital program thanks to federal funding and the state’s last capital program, Illinois FIRST, which provided the CTA with more than $800 million in investment between 2000 and 2004 and enabled it to leverage federal funding, Paul Fish, vice president of capital investment, said. As a result, the CTA increased the investment in its capital program from 19 percent of the funding needed to get to a state of good repair in 1999 to nearly 60 percent by 2004.

Recent investments include the renovation of the 54th/Cermak (Douglas) branch of the Blue Line and the Dan Ryan branch of the Red Line; the purchase of more than 1,100 new buses that are air conditioned and accessible to people with disabilities; the refurbishment of nearly 1,000 rail cars; the replacement of 15 miles of double track, 40 miles of cable and 27 miles of rail; renovation of 30 rail stations, installation of new elevators and escalators and structural projects such as Harrison Curve and the Paulina Connector that have enabled service improvements.

– Special to Railfanning.org News Wire