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RTA Chief Warns: Illinois Could Lose Federal Dollars For Red Line Extension

(CBS) -- The head of the Regional Transportation Authority warned Wednesday that the CTA's proposed Red Line extension faces a roadblock, should the Trump administration's budget proposals become law.

The American Public Transportation Association said $38 billion worth of projects in 23 states would be affected by the proposed cuts, including the extension to 130th Street, which is one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's priorities.

What makes it worse is the unique position Chicago is in because the state of Illinois lacks an infrastructure plan.

During a conference call from Washington, D.C., with Phoenix (Ariz.) Valley Metro CEO Scott Smith, RTA Chairman Kirk Dillard said the lack of state matching funds puts him into a lose-lose position.

"As much as I like my friends here from Arizona," Dillard says, "they're ready to gobble up any federal money that is there if we're not prepared from day one to move forward in Illinois."

Smith responded, saying: "In Arizona, we have our (matching state) money in the bank. So, we are prepared to gobble."

Dillard, a west suburban Republican and former legislator, said he is especially disappointed because some of the nation's largest infrastructure projects have been authored by Republicans.

"Abraham Lincoln, the founder of my party, was an infrastructure guy," Dillard said. President Lincoln authored the nation's first transcontinental railroad. Likewise, President Dwight Eisenhower created the Interstate highway system.

To date, CTA has received $75 million for planning of the Red Line extension. A spokesperson says the transit agency has not yet decided whether the extension should run immediately to the east or west of existing Union Pacific Railroad tracks.

CTA also has announced two major station renovations in recent days. Work will go forward on the Quincy/Wells Loop L station; tax-increment financing is paying the $18.2 million cost.

Less certain is the newly announced renovation of the Green Line 63rd/Cottage Grove terminal; a CTA spokesman said planning is preliminary and that no price tag or funding source has been determined for the project, to be built by the Chicago Department of Transportation.



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