It’s now up to the federal government to decide whether the Chicago Transit Authority imposes or lifts its scheduled doomsday service cuts and fare hikes on Sunday.Let's see what happens OK.
That’s the surprise word from City Hall and Springfield as the Chicago area’s transit crisis took a turn for the bizarre Friday.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced that he’s willing to give the CTA $21 million in unallocated federal grants. That would be enough to tide the agency over until Jan. 1, possibly providing squabbling state lawmakers enough time to come up with a long-term solution.
But the deal requires the approval of the Federal Transit Administration – and that’s not a certainty.
According to CTA Chairwoman Carole Brown, the FTA would have to approve what amounts to a waiver in its usual procedures to allow the CTA to get the money, which normally would be used for capital rather than operating expenses.
She said she would accept the offer if the federal government allows it.
Officials from Mayor Richard M. Daley on down have been on the phone with the FTA urging such a waiver Friday morning, and expect to receive an answer later on Friday. But such approval has not yet been received and is not guaranteed, Ms. Brown said.
Asked bluntly whether Sunday’s threatened cuts would occur, Ms. Brown said, “We are not in a position to answer that because we are still evaluating whether we can legally use the money.”
Friday’s flurry of activity followed another contentious meeting Thursday among legislative leaders and Mr. Blagojevich over how to help the CTA, Metra and Pace, and whether to connect that help with a proposed state infrastructure funding deal, which would require a major expansion of legal gambling, to provide the necessary money.
Springfield Republicans have been demanding the infrastructure deal in exchange for the votes for a bailout of CTA, Metra and Pace. House Speaker Michael Madigan, who had been resisting, is moving in that direction.
Now under consideration is the addition of two new casinos, including a land-based casino in Chicago, additional slot machines at existing casinos and new slot machines at horse racing tracks in the state.
UPDATE (3:17) - It appears there won't be a doomsday. This is what happens when I'm not on top of it. From the Capitol Fax Blog.