- The Chicago Transit Authority board has chosen the joint venture of Fluor Corp. and Walsh Construction Co. to engineer, design and build the first phase of the $2.1 billion Red Line and Purple Line Modernization Program, the largest capital project in authority history.
- The JV's contract is $1.2 billion, and the team's work includes reconstruction of four stations and six miles of 100-year-old track; construction of a rail bypass; and installation of a new signal system. The Red Line is the city’s busiest, carrying 30% of all rail riders, or 75 million passengers a year. The project will be paid for with $956 million through the Federal Transit Administration's Capital Investment Grant program, $115 million of federal congestion mitigation and air quality funds, $384 million of city sales tax bonds and cash and $610 million through local tax-increment financing (TIF) districts. Construction should begin in the first quarter of 2019 and wrap up in 2025.
- The authority also announced that it has awarded HNTB Corp. a nearly $21 million program management contract to oversee the final environmental review process for a separate $2.3 billion, 5.3-mile extension of the Red Line. HNTB's scope includes preliminary engineering work and an analysis of potential impacts of the project, both of which are necessary if the authority hopes to compete successfully for more than $1 billion of New Starts grant money from the FTA.
After the 2016 presidential election but before President Donald Trump was inaugurated, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city council expedited the local matching funds approvals for the Red Line-Purple Line modernization so that they could try to secure the FTA grant before President Barack Obama left office. This was likely due to the president’s rhetoric around his initial $1 trillion infrastructure proposal.
Trump said that local agencies and states relied too much on federal help for their transportation projects and that initiatives of national import would get preference when it came to federal dollars. He suggested a maximum direct federal contribution of $200 billion, leaving state and local governments wondering if they were going to have to figure out a way to come up with the rest.
However, The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the president might be willing to increase the federal share in order to reach a compromise on infrastructure with Democrats in Congress. This could be good news for a construction industry that has been waiting for the massive initiative to get underway, and for the American public, which is demanding that infrastructure improvements be made.