Capital programming is a core function of the RTA. The RTA Act requires the RTA Board to annually adopt a Five-Year Regional Capital Program that is guided by a strategic plan, currently Invest in Transit, and is fiscally constrained by the annual budget and two-year financial plan. Once the capital program is adopted, the expenditures of CTA, Metra, and Pace are subjected to continual review, so that the RTA may budget and ensure that funds available to the region are spent with maximum efficiency.
For the last several years, the RTA and the Service Boards have been working together to articulate and advance a regional transit capital strategy. Invest in Transit emphasizes the importance of transit in northeastern Illinois and the related infrastructure investment needed for the three transit Service Boards. It includes a vision, goals, core requirements, and priority projects that the RTA and the Service Boards have committed to advancing with additional capital funding.
The enactment of the Rebuild Illinois program in June 2019 provided the RTA system with $2.6 billion in bond funding, which was programmed in 2020 and 2021. Furthermore, an estimated $227 million in ongoing annual gas tax revenue referred to as “PAYGO” funding is available on an annual basis. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the RTA and Service Boards, working with the region’s funding partners, including the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA), continue to execute the capital program. including granting funds and advancing projects.
In 2021, the RTA and the Service Boards also drafted a new method for allocating federal formula and state PAYGO funds. This performance‐based capital allocation process distributes funds based on need, project delivery timing, and regional priorities. The new approach better matches Service Board needs, puts a focus on equity and accessibility projects and incentivizes the Service Boards to deliver projects to the region in a timely manner. The new allocation method begins with federal formula and PAYGO funds programmed in 2025 and 2026.
The State of Illinois also enacted legislation in September 2021 requiring a transparent prioritization process for northeastern Illinois transit projects receiving state capital funds, which considers a number of factors. Several regional plans and processes are already in place to guide the transit capital programming process, as described in the Draft Framework for Transit Capital Investments, developed by RTA in 2020. RTA is currently reviewing the criteria outlined in the new state legislation alongside current processes and criteria to determine where alignment is already occurring and where there are opportunities to better match with the new state legislation in future programming and reporting efforts.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law on November 15, 2021, is a significant investment in the nation’s transit infrastructure. It provides for $106.9 billion in public transit funding over five years, an increase of $41.1 billion or 63% from FAST Act spending levels. The bill includes $8.9 billion in increased Urbanized Area formula grant funding over the previous authorization and $4.9 billion in State of Good Repair formula funding over FAST Act levels. The legislation also authorizes several new transit discretionary programs including a new State of Good Repair discretionary program set at $300 million per year, these funds will get awarded to three applicants per year. There is also a new $1.75 billion discretionary program for station accessibility entitled the All Stations Accessibility Program.
These new state and federal initiatives will continue to guide RTA’s work related to capital funding and advocacy.
The current capital program is available in the Proposed 2022 Operating Budget, Two-Year Financial Plan, and Five-Year Capital Program and in an interactive format on the RTA’s Mapping and Statistics website (RTAMS) on the Regional Capital Program page. The proposed 2022-2026 five-year capital program totals $5.260 billion.
The Service Boards have identified 75 Priority Projects that they would advance with additional funding in Invest in Transit and subsequent annual updates. The current 2022-2026 capital program funds a portion of the Priority Projects and about 14.5% of the total 10-year need. Four projects have been fully funded. Twenty-five do not receive any funding, showing that additional investment is needed to advance them all.
CTA’s five-year capital program has $3.474 billion available for capital expenditures. CTA’s capital projects are largely focused on moving the system toward a state of good repair, which includes replacing and rehabbing both buses and rail cars.
Metra’s five-year capital program has $1.497 billion available. Metra continues to concentrate its capital budget on improving rail cars and locomotives as well as improving stations, bridges, and the right-of- way for its trains.
Pace’s five-year capital program is $289.4 million. Pace continues to focus on maintaining their rolling stock as well as providing for maintenance of other assets, and also shifts the focus of capital investment into electric vehicles.
For 2026 $0.2 million in funds were withheld from Pace for not reaching spending targets implemented in the performance‐based capital allocation process. These funds were returned to Pace because the service boards and RTA could not reach consensus on an allocation method for the withheld funds. The RTA and Service Boards will resume discussions on the approach to allocate such funding as part of the 2022 budget process.