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US DOT gives big funding to Chicago to reduce traffic congestion

Chicago has been selected to receive more than $153 million in federal funds under a new congestion initiative, announced U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters. The innovative proposal will reduce traffic gridlock through the use of congestion pricing for street parking spaces and faster, more reliable bus service.

“Chicago’s plan is ambitious, bold and innovative – just like the city itself,” said Peters, noting that the Department is partnering with the City of Chicago and the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). “We support Chicago’s leaders because their plan helps to ensure that the city that works doesn’t become the city that idles.”

Peters explained the federal funds will be used to support Chicago’s creation of four pilot routes of a new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network. The new BRT routes will have their own dedicated lanes and the buses will be equipped with technology to help speed them through traffic with priority right of way at busy signalized intersections. In addition, the CTA will be able to purchase new and cleaner hybrid engine vehicles, she said.

The use of congestion pricing for the city’s metered parking spaces is key to Chicago’s bold and ambitious plan, Peters emphasized. Higher street meter rates during the morning and evening rush periods will encourage commuters to take transit downtown instead of driving. And, the new BRT routes will be available for those who don’t want to pay more for parking.

“Whether commuting to work, going for a jog or watching kids on the playground, everyone will breathe a little easier thanks to this plan,” Peters said.

The federal funding is contingent, in part, on the city and the CTA adopting the necessary legal authorities. Also, the city must successfully move forward on its previously announced plans to privatize its metered parking system and enter into a long-term agreement with a private firm by December 31, 2008.

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