Coordinate the Plans
Today, multiple government agencies are planning segments of CrossRail Chicago without any overall coordination. The first, critical step is to get these plans aligned. Leading institutions like Cook County, CMAP or IDOT could play the coordinating role.
Develop the Financing
Transportation infrastructure projects have many parts, and there are many potential funding sources. As a tightly synchronized program of interrelated projects, CrossRail could access a variety of federal, state, local, and private funds.
There are several federal, state and local programs that could fund track reconstruction. Federal and state highway funds could pay for removing rail grade crossings with surface streets. Meanwhile, Mayor Emanuel has been successful in changing a federal loan program and creating a state transportation TIF program to create potential funding streams for other large components.
Build from the Center Out
The hub of CrossRail Chicago and indeed the entire Midwest passenger rail network is Union Station. Improvements there facilitating movement of passengers and trains would have immediate results regionwide. Addressing the 16th Street Connector next would forge the critical link between the north and south sides of Chicago and Cook County that is the essence of CrossRail. With those enhancements in place, a new passenger rail station at O'Hare would provide direct airport access to city, suburban, and intercity trains from virtually anywhere in the Midwest.
- Adopt Ventra card tap-on-tap off on the Electric District.
- Allow fare transfers between Metra Electric and CTA/Pace.
- Dramatically increase frequencies on the Electric District.
The City of Chicago should:
- Choose the "Metra" solution for airport express.
- Partner with Metra to link and upgrade the Electric and North Central routes.
Cook County should:
- Create the overall plan for CrossRail.
- Coordinate the program.
The State of Illinois should:
- Develop a business plan for a Chicago-Champaign-Springfield-East St. Louis bullet train.
- Create a Railroad Infrastructure Fund to pay for this and other critical needs.