In Transit: What drives Pritzker, Bailey on transportation issues? – Daily Herald

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Republican Sen. Darren Bailey is eying tolled lanes to run alongside existing freeways to help pay for roads.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker thinks a controversial railway merger impacting the suburbs needs to be slowed down.

Transportation has taken a back seat in the gubernatorial election to hot-button topics like abortion and crime. Not in this column, however.

If elected, Bailey would consider tolled lanes that run parallel to untolled roads to “create new transportation options and help pay for the maintenance of existing roads. There were previous proposals to create dynamic-priced lanes that would run parallel to I-55 going southwest from Chicago,” he said in answering questions from the Daily Herald.

“Tolled lanes that run parallel to untolled lanes can provide a faster option for drivers willing to pay while alleviating traffic flows on the untolled lanes for drivers who are unwilling to pay,” Bailey noted. “This project could be built by a private developer or the Illinois tollway.”

Pritzker is promising more capital improvements with the $45 billion Rebuild Illinois program, funded by raising gas taxes and other fees in 2019.

“As I arrived here, I could only think one thing — jobs, jobs, jobs,” Pritzker said Oct. 25 at a Chicago groundbreaking for two railway grade separations intended to fix freight train gridlock.

The project “means fewer bottlenecks, less traffic, increased safety, and more economic vitality for the entire region,” Pritzker said. “It represents progress that area residents are able to see and feel for themselves in their commutes, their trips to the grocery store, even going out for a stroll.”

• On the merger of Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern railways opposed by some suburbs and Metra, Pritzker said, “there’s no doubt we need to slow it down.

“We need to make sure whatever decisions get made actually get a full hearing, and I don’t believe they have been so far.”

Bailey said: “The Chicago area has prospered as a national transportation hub, so we don’t want to drive away additional business growth unnecessarily.

“At the same time, suburban homeowners have justifiable concerns about traffic and noise congestion.”

• Metra, CTA and Pace ridership is still below pre-pandemic levels. The agencies are relying on federal aid to stay afloat, but that ends in 2025.

“We’ve got to work with our federal delegation, this is a federal challenge, we’re not getting those dollars we need,” Pritzker said. “At the state level, we’re providing infrastructure upgrades and whatever operating dollars we can, but there’s no doubt federal dollars are necessary if we want to continue subsidizing beyond 2025.”

Bailey thinks “our transportation systems are unsafe under Gov. Pritzker. Chicago’s public transportation options must become much safer and more cost-effective.” He supports more cameras on public transportation and stronger penalties for crimes on public transit.

• After a patronage scandal at the Illinois tollway under Gov. Bruce Rauner, Pritzker ushered in new leaders, but concerns surfaced over cronyism in hiring and a power struggle at the top.

Bailey pointed to problems at other agencies, like findings of a nearly $2 billion loss from fraudulent claims at the Illinois Department of Employment Security. “It is no surprise if the tollway is more of the same cronyism and incompetence, and his appointees need to be replaced with public servants,” he said.

A Pritzker spokesman stated “the governor has appointed a set of qualified professionals” to the tollway board, including his original chairman appointee Will Evans who retired in early 2022 and was the first Black leader of the agency.

As of 2022, “a new era of leadership has been ushered in with the appointment of Dorothy Abreu as chairwoman,” the spokesman said. “She and her team are building on the administration’s record of managing complex projects, completing them on time and under budget, and reforming the agency’s ethics standards.”

• The Chicago Bears’ plan to move the team to Arlington Park is enmeshed in a debate over who pays for a stadium as well as upgrades to roads and highways leading to the site. A nod from the governor would be a game-changer, but both candidates have opposed funding the stadium itself.

On state aid for related infrastructure, Bailey said “no. The state should not pick winners and losers between municipalities that want to host the Bears. While too many in our state are struggling, it’s wrong to spend the money on this.”

Pritzker’s spokesman said the Rebuild Illinois plan already has “projects in progress in and around Arlington Heights and a potential Bears move has no impact on the timing of their completion.”

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October 31, 2022 at 06:59AM

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