Chicago gets $153M in congestion reduction grants

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Chicago has been selected to receive more than $153 million in federal funds under a new congestion initiative announced Tuesday, April 29, by the Department of Transportation. The proposal is intended to reduce traffic gridlock through the use of congestion pricing for street parking spaces and faster, more reliable bus service.

“Chicago’s plan is ambitious, bold and innovative – just like the city itself,” said Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, noting that DOT is partnering with the City of Chicago and the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). “We support Chicago’s leaders because their plan helps to ensure that the city that works doesn’t become the city that idles,” Peters said.

The federal funds will be used to support Chicago’s creation of four pilot routes of a new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network; the new BRT routes will have their own dedicated lanes, and the buses will be equipped with technology to help speed them through traffic with priority right of way at busy signalized intersections. CTA also will be able to purchase new and cleaner hybrid engine vehicles, Peters said.

The use of congestion pricing for the city’s metered parking spaces is key to Chicago’s plan, Peters said. Higher street meter rates during the morning and evening rush periods will encourage commuters to take transit downtown instead of driving, and the new BRT routes will be available for those who don’t want to pay more for parking, she said. “Whether commuting to work, going for a jog or watching kids on the playground, everyone will breathe a little easier thanks to this plan,” Peters said.

DOT said the federal funding is contingent, in part, on the city and CTA adopting the necessary legal authorities; also, the city must successfully move forward on its previously announced plans to privatize its metered parking system and enter into a long-term agreement with a private firm by Dec. 31. DOT’s announcement is a component of its National Strategy to Reduce Congestion on America’s Transportation Network.