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Will Governor Pritzker play Santa Claus for the south Red Line extension project?

Santa Claus on the Pink Line and Governor Pritzker at the 54th/Cermak station. Photos: Cameron Bolton

Update 12/15/22, 1:00 PM: In response to Streetsblog's question about whether Governor Pritzker is interested in providing state funds for the south Red Line extension, spokesperson Olivia Kuncio provided the following statement.

Specific funding for CTA projects is allocated by the Regional Transit Authority [which oversees funding of the CTA, Metra, and Pace], but Governor Pritzker’s administration has had preliminary conversations regarding the Red Line extension project that will continue as all groups assess their needs for the project. Already, the Rebuild Illinois capital plan has allocated over $4 billion to the RTA. Although the RTA has not as of yet chosen to specifically allocate any state-provided funds to the Red Line extension project, it could still continue to do so from any of these funding sources if needed. On top of the funding in Rebuild Illinois, RTA has added $100 million to its revenue base thanks to the work of the state.

This afternoon two famous, jolly men were spotted riding the CTA Holiday Train on the Pink Line route: St. Nick and Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker.

Read the backstory of the Holiday Train, a beloved 31-year-old Chicagoland transit tradition, and tips on riding it, in this Streetsblog article from last week. When we heard the governor would be riding the Yuletide-themed Pink run from the 54th/Cermak terminal in west-suburban Cicero, Streetsblog sent writer Cameron Bolton headed to the station in hopes of buttonholing him with the following question.

Waiting for the train at 54th/Cermak. Photo: Cameron Bolton
Waiting for the train at 54th/Cermak. Photo: Cameron Bolton
Waiting for the train at 54th/Cermak. Photo: Cameron Bolton

"Yesterday at a Chicago City Council Finance Committee hearing where alderpersons approved the proposed transit taxi-increment financing district to help pay for the $3.6B CTA south Red Line extension project – the final Council vote is tomorrow – CTA president Dorval Carter Jr. said he plans to lobby in Springfield for additional state funding. Most of the money for the project will come from federal grants, but about a third of the cash needs to be a local match. Are you in favor of investing state funds in this project? If so, why?"

The train arrives at the station. Photo: Cameron Bolton
The train arrives at the station. Photo: Cameron Bolton
The train arrives at the station. Photo: Cameron Bolton

Unfortunately, Pritzker's security detail wouldn't let Cameron near the governor without a work ID. (Note to self: Send an application to the police department for a press pass for him. - Ed.) We've submitted our query to the governor's staff and will update this post once we hear back.

But Cameron did get to ask a few civilian straphangers for their impressions of riding the holi-dazzled 'L' train.

Onboard the Holiday Train. Photo: Cameron Bolton
Onboard the Holiday Train. Photo: Cameron Bolton
    • "Fun for all ages." – Michelle.
    • "I think it’s pretty cool. It’s my first time." – Jackie O.
    • "It’s beautifully decorated and pretty packed." – Gregory O.
    • "It’s very exciting. Some holiday cheer. [My children and I] have been from 54th and Cermak, so they’ve been watching and yeah, they enjoy it." – Gaby G.

Stay tuned to find out whether J.B. is planning to provide a gift to the CTA in the form of RLE funding, or merely some coal, which wouldn't be very useful for running an electric-powered train.

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