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Chicagoland Wed Apr 15 2009

Explaining CMAP's Budget Woes

Some major transportation and planning projects that affect your daily commute may be in jeopardy if the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning cannot secure more state dollars.

The planning organization -- which studies land use and transportation planning for the seven counties of northeastern Illinois -- is asking on its Web site that concerned residents write to state legislators, expressing their concern that Governor Quinn's proposed Fiscal Year 2010 budget does not include the Comprehensive Regional Planning Fund (CRPF).

In past years, CMAP received about $3.5 million, or 70 percent, of the $5 million statewide CRPF fund annually, according to Tom Garritano, CMAP's communications director. Garritano says this money is crucial to current and future CMAP projects.

"The money is really important, even though it doesn't make up the majority of our annual budget," he says. "It is needed to match the federal transportation dollars that come to the region, and it pays for a lot of the non-transportation planning that CMAP does."

So how is it that this relatively small portion of money affects CMAP so significantly?

"It's a federal requirement that for any region to spend federal transportation dollars, they have to have a metropolitan planning organization in place, and they have to maintain the region's official transportation plan," Garritano explains. "For projects to get into the regional plan, the TIP (Transportation Improvement Program), a shorter range version, has to be reviewed, and that takes a lot of staff work. That's jeopardized, and it's a ripple effect if we will lose the funds. We're hoping it's going to be restored through the Governor's office and General Assembly."

Some projects affected include funds for roads and transit through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and any new state capital bill that uses federal dollars. A list of some of CMAP's TIP projects can be found here, and some of the organization's non-transportation projects can be found here.

Still don't really care? Listen to this scenario that Garritano suggests about why you should give a damn:

"As the official comprehensive regional planning agency, we help communities across the region take a long-term view. There's always pressure to respond to crises, and that's understandable, but a lot of times crises result because of a lack of effective planning in the past. We try to help communities deal with these problems and plan more effectively for the future. We're at a critical juncture in terms of regional ability to accommodate population growth. Our forecasts predict 2.8 million [new] residents by the year 2040. That is going to have dramatic effect on people's abilities to get around, where you live, the quality of your water, whether there's adequate water supply. It does affect people's day-to-day lives, and 'planning' as a word is not considered the most exciting of topics, but it significantly affects how people live day-to-day lives, and the character of their communities. Without effective planning, the region's ability to respond is significantly impaired."

Click here to read CMAP's nice blog entry on the topic. At the bottom of the entry, there are separate links to a fact sheet (.pdf) and a sample "call to action" letter (Word).

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