Every day, two million people take public transport to move about the heart of Chicago and across the rest of the metropolitan area in the northern area of Illinois – one of the busiest air, rail and shipping hubs of the United States.
But this massive demand for mobility is being met by obsolete infrastructure and a road and rail network that is close to collapse.
How best to update public transport services has been one of the most hotly debated issues in the state.
In recent weeks, however, the government finally responded. Governor J.B. Pritzker has launched a $45-billion investment plan for the next six years to improve the transport infrastructure in and around Chicago, creating 540,000 potential jobs.
The plan - called "Rebuild Illinois" – is being put into practice thanks to a bipartisan agreement between the Democratic government of the state and the Republican opposition.
«After years of neglecting our state's roads, bridges, mass transit, and buildings, Illinoisans' health and safety have been jeopardized, and job creation has been hindered», said Pritzker in a press release. «The Rebuild Illinois plan will reinvigorate our economy and strengthen our rightful status as the transportation and supply chain hub of the nation».
The plan’s financing will come from varying sources: state bonds, state funds, and about $10 billion from the federal government. There might also be an increase in taxes, according to the Reuters news agency. Among them, one on fuel, which would rise from $0.19 per gallon to $0.38 - the same level as the tax on alcohol sales.
The plan’s impact
The investment is expected to create 540,000 direct and indirect jobs, for an average of 90,000 a year, according to the plan’s official document published on May 15.
The bulk of the spending will go the maintenance and construction of roads, bridges, metros and railways, equivalent to 69% of the total, or about $30 billion.
Among the projects are a new Amtrak line to connect Chicago with the Quad Cities and Rockford. There are also numerous ones for mobility in Chicago.
A plan for Chicago
The third-largest city in the United States, Chicago is one of the most important transport hubs in the country.
The 75th Street Corridor Improvement Project, which is part of the plan, aims to improve intermodal exchanges between the railway and the port. The city is the busiest cargo terminal in the country, and the third intermodal port in the world. A quarter of the goods transported by rail passes through Chicago.
Part of the investments will also be allocated to the city public transport network, which is already being upgraded.
Outside the perimetre of the plan is one of the most significant projects launched in recent months: a high-speed train to connect O'Hare International Airport with downtown Chicago. This is a strategic because it will allow the third busiest airport in the country to reach the city centre in just 20 minutes, reducing transport times by 50%.
The rail link will be financed and managed by private investors. It will be subject to the control of the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, an agency set up by the city’s mayor and city council in 2012. Transits between the airport and the city are seen rising from 20,000 a day in 2018 to 35,000 in 2045.