Fueling Chicago’s Economic Growth

Transportation and Infrastructure


Why We’re Involved

The strength of Chicago’s economy rests on its vast transportation network and the region’s future prosperity depends on the maintenance, modernization, and expansion of the system. Since its founding, the Civic Committee has recognized the importance of our interconnected set of transportation resources and has actively supported strengthening them.

What We’ve Done

In 2017, the Civic Committee formed a Transportation Task Force of 20 area executives to provide focus to our transportation policy and project priorities. The Task Force works with public officials and transportation stakeholders to promote its vision of an integrated transportation system that supports the Chicago area’s economic prosperity, protects our environmental assets, and fosters the well-being of all who live here.

The Task Force’s work is grounded in four key principles:

  • Invest Sustainably: Transportation should be funded with sustainable, long-term revenues that come from users’ fees. Funding should be sufficient to maintain and strategically improve the system, keeping pace with the full cost of building, operating, and maintaining infrastructure assets.
  • Connect Systems: Transportation needs to operate as a system, with all providers of transportation working together. Land use and comprehensive planning factors should be thoroughly considered before making investments.
  • Embrace Innovation: Technology and new approaches to transportation challenges present opportunities that our region should embrace through research, development, piloting, and implementation.
  • Efficient Governance and Funding Model: Transportation funding and projects should be allocated to projects through a transparent, data-driven process that ensures the best projects will be funded with the limited dollars available. Government agencies should embrace governance and operations models that deliver services in the most efficient way.

The Task Force is currently supporting the three following transportation projects and policy initiatives:

  • COVID-19 Recovery           
    The Civic Committee is engaged in several local, state, and federal responses to ensure the Chicago region recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger and more resilient.  The Chicago region’s transportation network is a critical component of that recovery – our vast freight network, large mass transit system, and global airport has played and will play a critical role in keeping our region healthy and economically vibrant.

The transportation Task Force has worked with government leaders, non-profit organizations, and business groups to address the immediate transportation challenges of the pandemic.  These efforts have improved safety of the transportation network, especially on mass transit, increased access to data and modelling of transportation system needs, enhanced communication and coordination with the business community.

The Civic Committee has also helped place transportation at the center of city, regional, and state recovery planning efforts.   Members of the Transportation Task Force have participated in several recovery planning efforts, including Mayor Lightfoot’s COVID-19 Recovery Task Force report.  COVID-19 recovery work continues through these efforts and the specific policy and project priorities highlighted below.

  • O’Hare International Airport
    O’Hare International Airport is a critical economic engine for the Chicago region, and the Civic Committee has long recognized the need to retain O’Hare’s position as a leading transportation hub and international gateway. Since the formation of our Aviation Task Force in 1989, we have played an integral role to support the airport, including our successful efforts to pass the O’Hare Modernization Program in 2003. 

The Civic Committee continues to promote the completion of the O’Hare Modernization Program and the successful implementation of the $8.5 billion terminal rebuilding project.

  • CREATE Program and 75th Street Corridor Improvement Project (CIP)
    The 75th Street Corridor Improvement Project (CIP) is the single-most important element of CREATE (Chicago Regional Environmental and Transportation Efficiency program). CREATE is a broad partnership between the U. S. Department of Transportation, the State of Illinois, the City of Chicago, Cook County, Metra, Amtrak, and the nation’s freight railroads. Its goal is to address critically needed improvements to increase the efficiency of the region’s passenger and freight rail infrastructure and to enhance the quality of life for Chicago-area residents.

In 2018, the Civic Committee helped support a successful $132 million federal grant request to jumpstart the first phase of the 75th Street CIP. The Transportation Task Force supports the completion of the 75th CIP and other critical CREATE projects to bring improved passenger rail operations and increased efficiency and capacity to our nation’s freight system.

  • Performance-Based Programming
    Performance-based programming calls for allocating transportation dollars according to consistent and transparent evaluation criteria. Illinois lags behind other states in using data-driven, transparent funding, and project selection processes that are based on objective criteria aimed at maximizing performance and benefits of the transportation system.

The Civic Committee supports efforts that will require the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to adopt a comprehensive performance management system and continues to work with other stakeholders to require all recipients of transportation revenues to adopt performance-based programming processes.

The Civic Committee joined other organizations in jumpstarting a re-evaluation of capital spending by the three transit agencies operating in the Chicago region.  Funding levels and investments strategies have been largely based on static, fixed formulas that are a roadblock to a more coordinated, flexible, and efficient mass transit system.   

  • Foster Innovation in Transportation
    IDOT lacks many tools other state DOTs use to plan, design, and build projects in the most efficient manner. For example, IDOT is just one of five states without authority to use design-build contracting methods for its projects. Design-build authority allows a state DOT to execute a single contract for both architectural/engineering services and construction. This type of project delivery offers significant time and cost savings over traditional methods that require separate contracting for design and construction.  The Civic Committee supports granting IDOT design-build authority and promoting the adoption of other innovative delivery, funding, and financing techniques to improve our transportation system.  

New technologies have created opportunities to move people and goods more safely, efficiently, and cost-effectively. The Civic Committee has supported planning-level exercises throughout the Chicago metropolitan region to prioritize which technologies would best help Chicago achieve goals of improving safety, relieving congestion, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and moving freight more efficiently. 

The Civic Committee Transportation Task Force supported the creation of, and participated in, the City of Chicago’s New Transportation and Mobility Task Force, chaired by former U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood. The Task Force’s report helped bring new mobility options to Chicago and is helping inform other city and region-wide planning exercises that will guide Chicago’s post-COVID recovery.   

  • Equitable, Efficient Mass Transit
    The Civic Committee has been a leading advocate for the proposed pilot project to improve Metra service on the south side and south suburbs. The project is led by Cook County and will increase frequencies of Metra trains along the Metra Electric and Rock Island lines and reduce fares, so they are equal to the cost of a CTA ride within the City of Chicago. Free or reduced transfers to CTA and Pace would also be available under the pilot. This pilot, if successful, will be the most significant attempt to coordinate service between CTA, Metra, and Pace since the late 1970s.  

    Transit agencies in Chicago will need to operate in a coordinated and nimble fashion as this current health crisis subsides. The pilot program’s innovative approach to goals like coordinated service among all providers, unified fare media, and access to jobs for vulnerable populations will help build skills our transit agencies can use to adapt to the changing transportation environment in a post-COVID world.  

How We Work

The Civic Committee’s Transportation Task Force supports its project and policy priorities by working with a diverse set of stakeholders and interests to create policies, funding, and actions that move these priorities ahead. The Task Force is currently building coalitions with business, labor, environmental, and planning groups to promote smart federal and state policies that meet the vision and principles the Task Force was created to bring about.

In 2020, the Civic Committee helped create the Metropolitan Civic Leadership Alliance, a unique group of organizations like the Civic Committee operating in nine major metropolitan regions.  The group works together on federal transportation and COVID-19 recovery initiatives, promoting federal investment and policy decisions that will help foster inclusive economic growth in the nation’s largest metro regions.    

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