Representative Riley’s opposition to the CTA ”super” TIF law

This summer a bill to create these CTA TIF districts was fast tracked through the General Assembly. Representative Riley stood in opposition to the legislation.  Although the legislation would hold school funding harmless from the new TIF, local libraries and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago could potentially be impacted by the CTA ‘super’ TIF law.

In his opposition to the CTA TIF bill, below is an excerpt of his testimony on the House Floor on June 30, 2016:

“Why there has not been myriad hearings for a TIF bill. Where were the hearings? Where are the promises? Where is the language in the bill to be sure that he right things are being done? It’s not just the problems with the Red Line Extension. The whole issue of transparency. Expanding the life of the TIF, issue of folks being short changed by a service board. Asked to pay for developments that may not even be in their area. It’s a bill that needs to have more oversight.

The CTA map – it tells on itself. Coincidence that keeps happening is not coincidence, its policy. There is a Skokie Swift, Evanston express, Forest Park. If it wasn’t for the Kennedy Expressway, O’Hare wouldn’t be in the City of Chicago.   But the CTA line stops at 95th street. As if there is not 750,000 people in the south suburbs. There should be more oversight, need more clarity and transparency in what is a tremendous change in statute.”

In a May memo to the General Assembly, the CTA stated the priority projects for the CTA TIF districts would be completed in three phases. All three phases did not explicitly include the Red Line Extension to 130th Street.

Representative Riley has done a lot of work as the Chair of the House Mass Transit Committee regarding regional equity in transit projects and funding. He has collaborated with Reverend Jackson at Rainbow PUSH’s annual meeting to facilitate a transportation panel to discuss transportation investments in the Chicago Southland and has spoken at the Rainbow PUSH Saturday Morning Forums about the importance of transportation.

Transportation equity has been his priority for the Chicago Southland. Other communities in the northern suburbs and northern Chicago, and other parts of Chicago have thriving transit services.

Riley feels there is a constant battle with the service boards and the RTA to have them understand what the term “equity” means, over the years. In 2014, Representative Riley specifically tasked the RTA with creating a geographically equitable regional transportation system by adding the legislation into the RTA Act.

He questions why a typical transit funding solution like floating a bond wasn’t being considered. He believes, the CTA is asking the residents of Chicago to foot the bill for projects, primarily on the north side.

Representative Riley would like to see public hearings on the South Side of Chicago regarding the Red Line Extension and other routes, which would be impacted by the TIF district language.

It is important to note recent history regarding the CTA Red Line Extension.

  • Rahm Emanuel’s initial campaign: (January 2011)
    • “The Red Line is the backbone of Chicago’s rail system for about half the city carrying nearly 250,000 riders each workday and accounting for 40% of all CTA rail trips. Rahm’s first transit priority will be a complete overhaul of the Red Line; rebuilding deteriorating tracks south to 95th Street, extending the line south to 130th street”
  • By November of 2011, CBS Chicago reported: “Emanuel: Red Line Will Be Upgraded Now, Extended Later”.
  • In June 2013, “The City Wants Nearly $1 Billion Facility Linking Metra Rail With O’Hare” by applying for a Transportation Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan”. (Chicago Architecture Blog)
  • Chicago Sun-Times news report: “CTA weighs two options for Red Line extension route (April 2014). They contributed to this story even though the locally preferred route was identified in 2009. The CTA FY2010 Budget Book itself stated that the “locally preferred alternatives were determined for the Red Line Extension and the CTA was developing the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement)”.
  • At the 2014 Mass Transit hearing: Representative Riley asked Forest Claypool, the chairman at the time, about the whereabouts of the monies for the Red Line Extension. Mr. Claypool stated that monies for the Red Line Extension were ‘couched under another line item’ that he couldn’t identify. One of the major development projects in the history of the CTA was under another line item. Two weeks later, a legislative staffer told him that the monies were not there in the FY2014 budget. He told her, “that I knew all along. I can read, and I know what Control-F does.”

In 2014, Representative Riley passed a Red Line Extension Resolution (HR675), which urges the Chicago Transit Authority to prioritize and expedite the planning and construction of the Red Line Extension Project.

Transportation equity has been his priority for the Chicago Southland. Other communities in the northern suburbs and northern Chicago, and other parts of Chicago have thriving transit services.

The new CTA TIF law would also create a TIF for the Star Line. The Star Line is a proposed suburban Metra route which would circle around the collar counties. It has been the number one project holding up many south suburban initiatives. Representative Riley has been a strong advocate for development of the South East Service Line, which would run from downtown Chicago to Crete. He sponsored legislation to create the Southeast Service Line Mass Transit District. Unfortunately, due to lack of funds, Metra has stopped planning for the new rail line.

The new law could potentially add other modernization/expansion projects with language stating ‘each may be amended from time to time after the effective date’. He hopes it is not the CTA’s attempt to forgo the public process for these projects.

Representative Riley’s last concern is language listed on pages 57-58 which expands the right of way, not to exceed 9 miles from the CTA’s Blue Line Modernization, 7 miles from the CTA’s Red Line and Purple Modernization (running from Madison Street North to Linden Avenue); and 20 miles from the CTA’s Red Line Extension program (running from Madison South to 130th Street). The mileage from the original/proposed transit facilities are significant and of concern. Again, there should be public hearings regarding who exactly will be impacted on the right of ways for these lines. A few other questions come to mind such as; do any of the utility companies have an issue with these rights of way?   Would this language supersede their authority? How did the CTA come up with the right of way mileage limits? Who does this benefit?

The Chicago City Council is expected to vote on the measure at their October board meeting.  If you live in Chicago, please voice your opposition to your local alderman’s office.