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State Pays Nearly $100M Owed To Transit Agencies

(Credit: CBS)

(Credit: CBS)

roberts250 Bob Roberts
Bob Roberts is a native of Wilmette who has worked in Chicago media...
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CHICAGO (WBBM) – The state of Illinois is coughing up some of the money it owes to the Chicago area’s transit agencies.

The $99.7 million is expected to be deposited Friday in an account maintained by the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) at the Amalgamated Bank.

But don’t look for anyone to go on a spending spree. This is money already spent by the CTA, Metra and Pace.

It merely allows the RTA to reduce its short-term debt from its temporary $400 million limit to $282.5 million, and Executive Director Joe Costello said Thursday that it only staves off emergency fare hikes or service cuts for three months.

“It’s roughly $37 million a month of state money that’s in the budget,” he said. “So if we get no more money, then we quickly run back up … you get back up to that $100 million in three jumps.”

LISTEN: Newsradio 780′s Bob Roberts reports

Costello said that the payment was the first by the state in four months.

Even more troublesome to the RTA is a deadline looming a year off.

On July 31, 2012, its short-term borrowing authority reverts to $100 million, a figure it last achieved in 2007. The bump up to $400 million was meant to be temporary and has already been extended once. RTA Deputy Executive Director Jordan Matyas said that re-extending it will be a top RTA legislative priority in Springfield this fall.

CTA and Metra have both reported in recent days that they expect to be able to make it to the end of 2011 without additional fare hikes or service cuts, although that outlook was predicated on the RTA’s ability to make full subsidy payments.

Costello said RTA officials also were informed that the agency will receive $8.6 million as part of a settlement reached earlier this month in a municipal bond bid-rigging case against J.P. Morgan Chase. The financial giant has underwritten a series of long-term RTA bonds.

Costello said the $8.6 million will be applied to the RTA’s underfunded capital program, where it can leverage perhaps as much as $34.4 million in federal grants. No specific use has been identified.