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Study Urges $2B In Annual Spending To Improve Local Mass Transit

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A new study by DePaul University advises at least $2 billion a year in spending is needed for the Chicago area's mass transit system, to avoid a meltdown of the aging network.

WBBM Newsradio 780's Regine Schlesinger reports the study – commissioned by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce – calls for at least $2 billion in investments in public transportation infrastructure each year to modernize and update the CTA and Metra.

"We've been kind of spoiled into thinking that we could Band-Aid our way forever," said DePaul professor Joe Schwieterman, a co-author of the study.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio's Regine Schlesinger Reports


Schweiterman said the good news is ridership is up on public transportation, but the bad news is the CTA and Metra's equipment and infrastructure are badly deteriorating.

"The foundation is crumbling. We're seeing now some of the early signs of that, with repeated CTA problems in the rapid transit system, where once or twice a month we have delays," he said. "Or seeing, with Metra, with the kind of delays that happen to occur when old switch systems from the 60s and 70s go bad."

Schwieterman's colleague, Dr. Laurence Audenard, said poorly maintained mass transit undermines economic growth.

"Whether I can rely on getting on a transit train, or a bus, and getting to my place of work, or to my child care; to all of the things that people kind of rely on on a daily basis," Audenard said.

State Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook), who sits on the Transportation Committee in the Illinois House, said it's vital that the Illinois General Assembly and Congress provide adequate funding to repair and upgrade mass transit infrastructure.

"Investment in infrastructure is a must, if we're going to grow the economy in Illinois," she said.

The chamber hopes to persuade lawmakers in Springfield and Washington, D.C., to provide a steady and predictable funding stream for capital improvements on the area's public transit systems.

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