Watkins Warns Transport Jobs May Be Lost


Mayoral candidate Patricia Van Pelt Watkins warned recently that as many as 17,000 jobs and millions in revenue will be lost if the city’s infrastructure isn’t improved.

Watkins issued the warning during a press conference Feb. 8 outlining her transportation policy plans for the city at her campaign office at 2312 W. Harrison Ave.

Chicago mayoral candidate Patricia Van Pelt Watkins talking to the press about her transportation plans for the city, if elected mayor, during her press conference at her campaign office on Feb. 8, 2011. Photo by Mary C. Johns

Chicago has one of the busiest rail gateways in the U.S., accounting for one-third of the nation’s rail traffic and resulting in 38,000 jobs and $22 billion in economic value to the region, Watkins said.

“We cannot overlook the fact that we have a public transit system that provides over 1.7 million rides per day, and yet too many of our citizens live in communities that are disproportionately impacted by crumbling infrastructure, service cuts and poor access to jobs and opportunity – despite the fact that they have been forced to pay increasingly high fares over the years,” Watkins declared.

Details of her transportation plans “to help improve one the city’s most underutilized resource,” include an inter-modal transportation system, which will offer more safe biking and pedestrian routes,

Watkins also proposes to work to roll back the parking meter deal and support the implementation of the public/private Chicago Region Environmental & Transportation Efficiency Program (CREATE) “to increase the efficiency of the region’s rail infrastructure, reduce train delays and congestion, improve air quality, create more than 2,700 full-time construction-related jobs, and generate $365 million in purchases of materials and services.”

Watkins said she would also “work aggressively” with the US. Department of Transportation, the State of Illinois Department of Transportation, and the Association of American Railroads “to ensure that CREATE achieves its goals as quickly as possible.”

To make Chicago the hub of a Midwest high speed rail network, Watkins also proposes to support state and federal funding, which she said would “build rail corridors radiating out from Chicago to other Midwest cities.”

She also plans to modernize Union Station.
In addition, Watkins plans to prevent layoffs and service cuts by fighting for more federal funding and demanding that the State of Illinois “stop shortchanging” the Chicago region.

“As Mayor, I will build the necessary coalitions to fight for an increased state and federal transportation funding for the Chicago region. I will also ensure that a plan is developed to work with the CTA, RTA, Metra and federal, state and local officials to repair crumbling infrastructure and expand rail services, such as proposed service expansions of the Red, Yellow and Orange Lines,” she continued.

During the question period with reporters, Residents’ Journal asked Watkins how she would work with the Chicago Transit Authority to bring back bus routes that were cut in low-income areas. She said she is committed to being sure that the decisions that her administration would make “are equitable and fair to the entire city.”

“We do not want the city to be divided up in quadrants,” Watkins said. “We want this to be one city and we want the services that we provide to be the services that are needed to grow together because I believe that the only way to improve Chicago is to improve the lives of people who live in Chicago.”

Watkins added that since the city doesn’t get its “fair share of dollars from the State,” her administration would make cuts “all across the board one way or the other.”

“So, that’s why we have to champion getting our dollars here and also fighting to get more federal dollars,” she said.

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