Emanuel: Chicago needs a ‘21st century’ infrastructure

By Matt Yurus

Campaigning before the City Club of Chicago’s guests and members, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that Chicago needs a “21st century foundation” to maintain a “21st century economy.”

Emanuel’s speech, which was his fifth and final speech concerning his agenda for a second term, called for continued investment in Chicago’s infrastructure. More than $7 billion have already been invested in infrastructure under Emanuel’s administration.

“The truth is that everything we want for Chicago’s future rests on doing the fundamentals,” Emanuel said, speaking to more than 100 supporters Thursday, “investing in the roads and water systems and parks and other facilities in which prosperity depends. It starts with our roads.”

If re-elected, Emanuel vowed to repave at least 1,200 more miles of roads. He added, if completed, his administration will have repaved nearly half of Chicago’s city streets.

“We will complete the new Blue [Line] by 2019, a nearly $500 million investment in the Blue Line that will take 10 minutes off the trip from downtown to O’Hare,” Emanuel said.

The Logan Square, Jefferson Park, Grand, Chicago, Division and Addison stations will also be upgraded. These improvements, along with the completion of the Blue Line, Emanuel said, will create 1,300 jobs.

Frank Clark, retired chief executive officer of ComEd, said the mayor’s plans for infrastructure will “keep Chicago viable well into the 21st century.”

The modernization of the Red Line will continue from Howard to 95th Street, adding another 5,000 jobs, Emanuel said.

He added that the CTA’s bus fleet will also be overhauled — 300 new buses and 1,000 more rehabbed.

“We will also continue our major investment in expanding parks and recreational areas,” Emanuel said.

A recent analysis by the City of Chicago, along with the Civic Consulting Alliance, the Global Economics Group and the Roland Berger Strategy Consultants found that a home located within two blocks of a Chicago park has, on average, a 1.5 percent higher property value.

Finally, the mayor emphasized that Union Station must be renovated.

“As the third busiest rail terminal in the United States with roughly 120,000 passengers served each day, Union Station is more than just a train station,” Emanuel said, “it is one of the engines driving Chicago’s continued growth.”

The station currently suffers from leaky roofs and overcrowded platforms, he said, resulting, at times, in unsafe travel conditions.

Thomas Donovan, the former president and CEO of the Chicago Board of Trade, said Emanuel’s plans for infrastructure were “very good.”

“I think he has the personal wherewithal and fortitude to make things happen,” Donovan said. “He has a vision, but he is also an implementer.”