Quinn, Rauner Should Get On Board With Region’s Performance Measures

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s lauded GO TO 2040 regional plan prioritizes transportation investments based on performance measures, rather than through arbitrary formulas or aggressive politicking. This ensures that the hundreds of millions of federal dollars that CMAP handles are spent on projects selected on need and merit, rather than just because someone important likes the idea – which, sadly, has typically been the case in metropolitan Chicago. Yet the two major parties’ candidates for Illinois governor showed only a passing familiarity with the concept when asked about it at a recent event.

Governor Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner demonstrated their misunderstanding of performance measures at the Metropolitan Planning Council’s  annual luncheon last Thursday. This unfamiliarity was particularly surprising, since both campaigns had met with MPC to review the questions beforehand.

GO TO 2040, authored by CMAP and adopted by over 200 Chicagoland municipalities, establishes performance measures that evaluate major projects’ potential to increase transit use, reduce driving, and eliminate harmful smoke and soot. Currently, however, most of the state’s transportation funding for roads and bridges bypasses this system and is allocated by a formula: 45 percent of funds go to Chicagoland, even though this area has 65 percent of the state’s population and 70 percent of economic activity.

Moderator Craig Dellimore of WBBM asked each candidate, “To get more ‘bang for the buck,’ do you support using performance measures to select Illinois’ transportation investments – for instance, prioritizing new road or transit projects that measurably improve access to jobs, reduce air pollution and spark adjacent economic development?”

Even putting aside the candidates’ usual attempts to steer every question towards their own talking points, both candidates’ answers showed an incomplete understanding of what performance measures are.

MPC 2014 Annual Luncheon
Rauner says he supports performance measures. Photo: Tricia Scully/MPC

Rauner answered pretty directly, saying he “emphatically, strongly supports performance evaluation when we’re making these decisions,” and that he’d want to work with MPC to come up with the best way to do that. He added that there should be cost-benefit analyses “of our spending and regulations.”

He should already know that CMAP already does cost-benefit evaluations of each major project. MPC’s question was less about evaluating projects, but instead comparing projects to each other – and only funding the ones which better achieve the region’s goals.

Quinn has proudly subverted our region’s infrastructure performance measures to advance his own political aims. He injudiciously got Metra and Pace to side with road expansion interests, and vote to include the Illiana Tollway into the GO TO 2040 plan. That act heightened the already stiff competition for scarce transportation funds, and CMAP’s own staff said that Illiana was antithetical to the plan’s goal of focusing on already-developed areas.

MPC 2014 Annual Luncheon
Quinn also supports performance measures, except when they prevent pet projects. Photo: Tricia Scully/MPC

Quinn responded that he thinks performance measures are important — but then grabbed the chance to tout one of his administration’s accomplishments. A new highway bridge crossing the Mississippi River at St. Louis met “all performance requirements,” and that local African Americans accounted for 24 percent of the project’s workforce. I’m glad that Illinois built a bridge that meets engineering standards, and exceeded minority hiring requirements, but again, we should expect that new bridges should meet relevant safety standards and applicable laws. Those are baseline standards, not performance goals.

It’s time for each campaign to take a much closer look at GO TO 2040’s goals, which focus on building livable communities, with affordable and connected transportation opportunities, by reinvesting in the communities where most Illinoisans already live and work. Quinn’s own performance in respecting the plan has been dismal, and so far Rauner has scarcely mentioned it.

  • Michael Gorman

    “Currently, … most of the state’s transportation funding for roads and bridges … is allocated by a formula: 45 percent of funds go to Chicagoland, even though this area has 65 percent of the state’s population and 70 percent of economic activity.”

    As a downstater, I’m going to push back a little bit on the idea that downstate might be overrepresented in the funding mix. Yes – 48% of annual VMTs on IDOT roads are in IDOT district 1 (basically the Chicago area). But 83% of IDOT road miles are outside of that district. You can’t just let those roads crumble. (Which is basically what’s happening now, when they’re supposedly getting too much of IDOT’s money.)

    I’ve biked on IDOT roads in Chicago and in Bloomington/Normal. Yeah, you have more population up there, but I’d say our IDOT roads are in worse shape down here.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    The usual Streetsblog screed is too much money is spent on roads, and if we stopped spending money on roads, eveything would be wonderful. And we need these roads because commuters in their automobiles wont take public transit or ride their bikes. Its fine to say that the Chicago area should get the lions share of IDOT money, but once you get out of the metro Chicago area there is little or no public transit, and even if you do bike, your job may be 20 miles away, but few employers provide showers and dressing rooms for you to bike in all weather.

    Further, there is no consideration for commerce, which generally involves both inter and intrastate trucking. That truck may make deliveries to Chicagoand and the next day Bloomington, Springfield or Kankakee, the next. Do we need leadership in this state, yes. Especially for badly proposed projects like the Illiana. However most road money is not for expansion, but for repairs. And more taxes for this totally mismanaged state for road and transit projects is not necessarily guaranteed.

  • In politicians defense, its probably difficult to review boring planning measures and performance metrics while trying to memorize witty one-liners and bland rhetoric to fire up the crowd at the local county fair.

  • Dobby

    a real me-first response. the problem is that you downstaters always want a huge out of proportion to population share of the funding for stuff you need, but then when Chicago needs some extra transit funding or a few more social services you downstaters complain all the way to your silly state senators (overrepresentated per population) to block any sort of funding for those greedy welfare queens in Chicago.

  • I’ll admit, I am definitely surrounded by people who think that way. I would say, though, that roads are fundamentally different than social services. Roads need to scale by amount of land covered, whereas social services need to scale by number of people served. Chicago certainly has complicating factors requiring more money for comparable lengths of road (land costs more to acquire, interchanges need to be shoehorned into smaller spaces, etc). What I am saying is that, if funding were divided entirely by population or tax revenue, there would be no way for agricultural products to get to market and you wouldn’t be able to drive or take the train to anywhere outside of the Chicago area.

    Not to mention – we’re talking about IDOT-funded roads here. I’m not asking for the City of Chicago to pay for Bloomington’s roads. IDOT-owned roads are, theoretically, the key routes around the whole state, with the idea that all Illinois taxpayers chip in because we all benefit from all of them, whether or not we actually drive/bike/walk on them ourselves. I have no problem paying for upkeep on the Kennedy because I know that if it collapsed tomorrow, I’d see the ripple effects all the way down here.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Chicago metro area does just fine. They get mega federal dollars. Just recalculate state and federal transpo dollars combined to see what the metro area gets vs the rest of the state.

    Further, when downstater’s get money, its because to get the legislation to pass, you have to throw them a bone or too.

    Or we could have constant grid lock in Springfield.

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