In 2019, the region’s transit agencies worked together to advocate for passage of Rebuild Illinois, a $45 billion capital bill that became the first passed in Illinois in a decade. The bill would provide the RTA system with $2.6 billion over five years in state bond funding and an estimated $227 million annually in gas tax revenue, which nearly doubles the region’s previous five‐year transit capital program.
While a significant step forward, Rebuild Illinois alone is not enough to close the funding gap in transit capital needs and was passed before the COVID-19 pandemic put additional stress on the transit system’s current and future funding sources. Due to COVID-19’s many unknown impacts, which will likely continue affecting regional finances beyond this fiscal year, having a solid investment framework is even more crucial so the RTA and transit agencies can continue to advocate in a unified manner for funding to support the region’s transit system, no matter what the future holds.
Given the enormity of capital needs and the limitations of funding, northeastern Illinois requires a transparent, equitable, and data-driven process for allocating capital funds to ensure that public investments meet clear regional goals for the transit system. In December 2019, the RTA Board of Directors passed an ordinance to create a Performance-Based Capital Allocation Process Committee that would develop more rigorous communications and reporting around the capital program, resulting in the draft Framework for Transit Capital Investments released in July 2020.
Continuing the work of the Investment Framework, the Performance-Based Capital Allocation Process Committee made up of RTA staff in partnership with the CTA, Metra, and Pace developed a Capital Allocation Structure which was adopted by the RTA Board in July 2021. The new Capital Allocation Structure is guided by three principles:
- Addressing Capital Reinvestment Need of the region by allocating funds to the three Service Boards based on their respective proportions of the funds needed to bring all assets into a State of Good Repair (SGR) in 20 years. State of Good Repair (SGR) is achieved when the backlog of assets exceeding their useful life is eliminated and the needs for normal replacement, rehabilitation, and annual capital maintenance of assets is met.
- Incentivizing Capital Expenditure Performance by applying performance targets related to capital program delivery to encourage and reward timely, efficient capital spending. Ideally, capital projects will be actively underway to deliver 20% of the 5-year program each year so that the average age of all grants never exceeds 2.5 years.
- Advancing Policy Priorities by ensuring that the entire regional five-year capital program advances regional goals, and that special emphasis is placed in areas of immediate importance to the agencies: Equity and Accessibility.