Honorable Chairman Inhofe, Senator Fitzgerald, Members of the Committee, I am Tom Marcucci, Mayor of the City of Elmhurst, Illinois. I am honored to be with you today to talk about transportation in northeastern Illinois.
Soon after I was elected in 1993, I realized that being Mayor involved much more than the 10 square miles that make up my suburban town in DuPage County. I realized that mayors, unlike any other local elected official, have the opportunity and responsibility to address regional issues. Virtually every regional body we have created to deal with area-wide issues, from transportation to environment to planning, includes mayors on boards, committees and advisory panels. In fact, mayors are often the only elected officials on these decision-making bodies.
I am here today representing one of those regional organizations – CATS. CATS is not, as you may be thinking, the Broadway show. CATS is the Chicago Area Transportation Study – the metropolitan transportation planning organization for northeastern Illinois. CATS is responsible for long-range planning for surface transportation – streets and highways; public transportation – bus and rail; and rail freight transportation. CATS was formed in 1955 and now includes the six urbanized counties of Cook, DuPage, Will, Lake, McHenry and Kane, and a portion of Kendall County. CATS is the only agency in this area that provides:
* Involvement of all transportation agencies and providers; * Integration of individual plans for all of these services; * Prioritization of specific projects for both funding and scheduling; * Funding for sub-regional transportation planning and for local transportation and congestion mitigation projects; * Cataloging of future plans and projects; and * Coordination and collaboration with the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission, our area-wide comprehensive land planning organization.
CATS is now in the process of preparing the 2030 Regional Transportation Plan, or RTP. The RTP will focus on the transportation strategies, improvements to existing systems, and new major capital projects that are recommended to meet the transportation needs of the region for the next 25 years.
If you want to know what transportation projects and improvements are needed in northeastern Illinois over the next twenty-five years – you need look no further than the RTP. If you want to know the priorities of the agencies, the local governments and the public – you need look no further than the RTP. If you want to make sure the economic and environmental impacts of proposed projects have been evaluated – you need look no further than the RTP.
We have heard comments that when the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century was passed six years ago, Illinois received less than its fair share of funding because of “infighting” between agencies, or because “we didn’t have our act together”, or because there was no coordination of the “wish lists”. I can’t promise you that you won’t get a long list of projects from everyone in the metro area, but I would ask you not to confuse “wish list” with “needs list”. There is an extraordinary backlog of transportation projects that are needed in our area. There are more projects needed in this area than this or any future Congress could ever fund. So how do you sort out the vitally important projects from the really important projects? Just look to the RTP.
We do have our act together. We do have our priorities set. We will have our needs list fiscally constrained.
As I said earlier, CATS is in the process of preparing the 2030 RTP. Since June, 2001, the transportation agencies, the local governments, the State of Illinois, and the working boards and committees of CATS have been creating our draft RTP document. That document includes projects representing all modes of transit from every part of the region, including the innovative Bus Rapid Transit proposal from my own DuPage County. But the draft is not yet fiscally constrained – there are more projects listed than we expect to have money to build. Now, our draft, with all the options, all the projects, all the opportunities for future transportation improvements, will be presented to the public – the residents of the region. They will help select the final list of projects that we will use for funding decisions for the next 25 years. Not the bureaucrats. Not the Mayor of Elmhurst. The choices will be shaped by the people who drive on the highways and ride the buses and trains.
In fact, if you happen to be in town on Thursday, you will see the RTP on television. A 30-minute program explaining the RTP and soliciting responses and participation will be aired on cable and broadcast TV several times over the next week. This is only part of the outreach effort by CATS to make sure that voices and opinions are not only heard, but are actually sought out and solicited.
Let me close my testimony with a few comments about the reauthorization of TEA-21. First, there are some technical changes we are proposing to improve the procedures and policies of the Act. Those are included in the supplemental material presented in advance of this meeting. I encourage you to review those and include them in the reauthorization, because they will make the process of implementing our plans much easier.
Lastly, I would ask that you please act on the reauthorization quickly. We need the reauthorization this year. We need funding increased and we need to move forward on new projects that will benefit the entire Chicagoland area. A continuing resolution won’t do that. We need the certainty of a reauthorization which guarantees funding in order to prioritize and schedule our projects efficiently.
Thank you for this opportunity to share my perspective on regional transportation issues with the Committee. I would be happy to answer any questions.