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The Chicago Transit Authority's (CTA) board yesterday approved a balanced $1.38 billion budget for 2014 that freezes fares, preserves service levels, and provides funds to improve service and modernize regional transit.The budget reflects the agency's operational efficiency efforts and reforms to cut unnecessary spending, which included modernizing supply chain operations, efforts to reduce worker absenteeism and new collective bargaining agreements, CTA officials said in a press release."This budget continues to move us away from a history of deficits and 'doomsday' budgets that forced service reductions or tax increases in the past," said CTA President Forrest Claypool. "We are building a modern CTA today that better serves customers and creates jobs," In 2014, the agency will continue its $4 billion capital investment plan begun in 2011 as part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Building a New Chicago program. Those plans include rehabilitating rail stations, modernizing rail and bus fleets, and bringing the agency's infrastructure into a state of good repair to improve reliability and safety for customers. The 2014 operating budget is the third consecutive CTA budget that preserves capital investment in the transit system without diverting capital funds to balance the operating budget, a past practice that stunted critical infrastructure projects, agency officials said.Major projects that will begin or continue in 2014 include:• the new 95th Street Terminal, a $240 million project that will expand and upgrade the 95th/Dan Ryan station;• a $203 million reconstruction of the Wilson station into a modern, accessible transfer station for the Red and Purple lines;• a new station at Cermak/McCormick on the Green Line;• the Ravenswood Connector project involving upgrades to track and related infrastructure between the Chicago and Armitage stations on the elevated Brown and Purple Express lines; and• upgrading power substations on the Red, Blue and elevated trail lines to improve the reliability of traction power, eliminate the need for future repairs and reduce travel times.
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