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Flooding and transit funds on MPC’s agenda

Wed, Feb 6, 2013

The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) released its annual agenda January 16 focused on foreclosure recovery, fighting flooding and financing regional transportation investments, among five regional outcomes. MPC brings together government, industry and community leaders to achieve policy around a competitive and livable Chicago region.

THE FIVE REGIONAL OUTCOMES TO ITS POLICY AGENDA INCLUDE:

• Vibrant neighborhoods and a competitive regional economy;
• Responsible, productive use of Chicago’s water assets;
• A transportation network that serves people and the economy;
• Innovative financing that unlocks regional growth; and
• Quality homes in attractive communities.

REGIONAL COLLABORATION

While many municipalities coordinate with neighboring communities to provide services such as fire protection and waste management more efficiently and cost effectively, few communities work across municipal borders on planning and development. By pooling resources and collaborating to attract and invest funds, communities can more effectively address the housing and transportation needs of their constituents. Since 2009, with a broad range of public and private sector partners, the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), and MPC have been assisting three clusters of towns in Cook County to pursue inter-jurisdictional strategies for housing and community development, successfully maximizing efficiency.

FIGHTING FLOODING BROUGHT ON BY CLIMATE CHANGE

Rain is a free resource, but when it overflows sewers, flood streets and ruins basements, it becomes a costly nuisance for communities and property owners. Part of the problem is due to more frequent and intense storms caused by climate change. Aging infrastructure can’t manage such large volumes of rain, pointing to one solution: communities need to invest in maintaining existing pipes and pumps (known as “grey” infrastructure), while modernizing systems where appropriate. MPC is coordinating appropriate revenue streams to fund necessary investments, and working with communities to explore “green” infrastructure strategies such as rain barrels, rain gardens, green roofs, and permeable paving.

With a range of regional partners and funding from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, MPC has been assisting Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood and the south suburb of Blue Island with demonstration projects to showcase the affordability of green infrastructure as a complement to the older grey infrastructure.

SHRINKING PUBLIC FUNDS AND NEW WAYS TO FUND TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE

Higher gas prices, longer delays, more potholes— drivers deal with these headaches year after year. In Chicagoland alone, gridlock costs an estimated $7.3 billion a year due to wasted time and fuel, and environmental damages. The nation’s Highway Trust Fund and Mass Transit Accounts are losing money. Americans are consciously using less gas as a result of higher fuel economy standards. These factors add up to significantly less state and federal funding to support regional transportation improvements. It’s time to dramatically rethink how we invest in our transportation system.

MPC is pursuing a variety of new financing tools in partnership with area decision-makers, including “value sharing.” Studies of the Chicago region show a 10 to 20 percent increase in land values near transit stations. With value sharing between developers and the transportation authority, the increase in private land values generated by public transportation investments help repay their costs—thus connecting the benefit of an infrastructure investment with the cost of providing it. To help Chicago-area decision-makers identify opportunities to apply this new tool, in 2013, MPC is researching the potential for value sharing to finance regionally significant transportation improvements, such as a redesigned Union Station and a Bus Rapid Transit route along Western or Ashland avenues.

MPC’s 2013 Plan for Prosperity identifies specific projects and partnerships MPC will pursue in 2013 to realize these goals. The policy agenda is available at metroplanning.org/2013planforprosperity.

Prepared materials, Ellen Garrison contributing

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