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Metra signs off on 2009 spending plan, outlines capital funding needs


The Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corp. (Metra) recently approved its 2009 budget, which includes $641.7 million for operating expenses and $203.4 for capital projects.

The budget does not include fare cuts or service increases; however, since the preliminary spending plan was introduced in September, Metra cut its administration budget by $1.5 million. The budget includes $92.7 million for fuel costs, which will total 15 percent of the budget despite the recent dip in diesel, Metra says. In comparison, fuel expenses totaled $18.8 million, or 4 percent of the budget, in 2004.

But Metra officials' bigger concern is the lack of a state capital program. Without one, the agency will not be able to maintain a state of good repair.
"It has been five years since the state had a capital bill, and our needs grow more critical every year," said Metra Chairman Carole Doris in a prepared statement.

The agency estimates it will need about $2.75 billion over the next five years to maintain a state of good repair and another $500 million to $800 million to fund four New Start projects. Agency officials hope that state leaders approve capital funds for transit agencies next year.

The budget now will go before parent agency the Regional Transportation Authority, which is expected to review the plan at its December board meeting.