- The Chicago Transit Authority gave an update Thursday on its plans for a $2.3 billion Red Line rail extension, but said the project still faces significant hurdles, including a funding source, according to Crain's Chicago Business.
- The CTA still needs to file the required environmental impact studies and finalize a lengthy list of private and public-land purchases needed for the project. An environmental study is necessary if the CTA plans on requesting federal dollars to help finance the extension. In the best-case scenario, the CTA estimated that the extension would not be complete until 2026.
- CTA President Dorval Carter called the extension "transformational," citing the potential for increased access to employment and educational opportunities. He also suggested that state funding or an incremental-tax scheme could help finance the project, according to Crain's.
The CTA, however, is not the only transportation authority facing significant challenges when it comes to rail projects. The scramble for enough money to achieve even a small percentage of the necessary repairs and upgrades needed to fix crumbling roads and bridges can sometimes lead to serious controversy among officials. Last month, Minneapolis transit officials, denied state funding for the $1.86 billion light rail extension, did an "end run" around those opposed to financing the project by moving forward with its own plan to make up their $145 million shortfall.
In addition, Maryland's Bethesda-area $5.6 billion Purple Line project ground to a halt recently when a U.S. District judge ordered additional environmental reviews on the project in response to a lawsuit filed by an environmental group and nearby residents. The ruling came right before officials expected a $900 million government check toward construction and development. Opponents cited safety issues and reduced ridership as reasons to not go forward with the project. The Purple Line team said continued delays could threaten the project from going forward, as there are time factors associated with its financing arrangements.
In addition, the Boston Green Line rail extension is still on hold after schedule delays and $1 billion in cost overruns nearly derailed the project altogether. In December 2015, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority fired all of its lead contractors and blamed the contract type and procurement process on what was considered the most expensive MBTA project ever — at $642 million per mile. In the run up to restart construction, the MBTA has scaled down the scope of work significantly but is still waiting on the Federal Transit Administration to approve a $1 billion spend. The FTA said in August that it is encouraged by the changes that the MBTA has made to its Green Line plans but is waiting for "clarifying information" before it can make its final decision to fund the project.