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Campaign Looks To Fix Chicago’s Crumbling Infrastructure

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Chicago’s sidewalks are crumbling, overpasses need repair, buses are breaking down, and trains always seem to be late, according to local nonprofit Metropolitan Planning Council.

Despite the Trump administration’s insistence that improving infrastructure across the country is a priority, federal funding would still be minimal. On top of this, the state of Illinois is also lacking in funding for sustainable infrastructure.

Yet, infrastructure is still a hot topic in Illinois. Just this week, the city released a plan to repave 135 miles of streets. The Chicago Transit Authority plans to build an elevated bypass to speed up traffic north of the “L” Belmont station. And candidates in Illinois running for positions from governor to state representative are bringing it up repeatedly while on the campaign trail.

Audrey Wennink, of the Metropolitan Planning Council, joined Morning Shift host Tony Sarabia to talk about its new plan to crowdsource a list of the problems and projects.

#BustedCommute campaign aims to show state of Chicago’s infrastructure

Audrey Wennink: The whole point is [to show] through pictures or even videos the state of our infrastructure, show how bad it is, and show how it affects your life.

Not only take a picture and show the pothole or the bike lane that’s falling apart or the sidewalk that’s falling apart, but tell how you were late to work, how it affects your life. That’s what our legislators what to hear from their constituents: how this is affecting your quality of life and that we need to invest in this more in the state of Illinois.

31 percent of Chicago-area transit is not in good condition

Wennink: I think the big issue here is also reliability. [We’re dealing with] very old infrastructure. Some of the Metra’s trains are 65 years old. Old stuff breaks down. And what people really care about is a reliable trip to work.

Thirty-one percent of the RTA’s transit system — so that’s Metra, Pace, and CTA — is not considered in a state of good repair right now. That means that things are older than they are supposed to be or, by object engineering measures, they are not in good condition. 

Illinois currently lacks predictable and consistent funding for its infrastructure

Wennink: Our state has not raised its gas tax in 28 years, and it’s not index to inflation. We have one of the lowest gas taxes in the country, and that is not a good thing because that means that we have very little money to spend on our transportation.

It’s actually getting to the point where people are actually saying, “Please do something about this.” The vast majority of legislators that have supported some type of funding increase have won their next election. It’s really not a third rail anymore. Thirty-one other states have actually passed some kind of sustainable transportation revenue package in the past five years. Not Illinois. But this is really what needs to happen, and we’re hoping by 2019 this is what will happen.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire interview, which was adapted for the web by Bea Aldrich.

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