Chicago has $2.7B short­age of in­fra­struc­ture dol­lars, al­der­men told

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY FRAN SPIELMAN, CITY HALL RE­PORTER fspiel­man@sun­times.com | @fspiel­man

Chicago needs $4.4 bil­lion over the next five years to put its streets, bridges, build­ings and ve­hi­cles on a main­te­nance-and-re­place­ment cy­cle, but has fund­ing for only $1.7 bil­lion, al­der­men were told Tues­day.

Dur­ing a vir­tual meet­ing of the City Coun­cil’s Com­mit­tee on Cap­i­tal and Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment, Bud­get Di­rec­tor Susie Park joined her coun­ter­parts over­see­ing three in­fra­struc­ture de­part­ments in out­lin­ing the mag­ni­tude of the cap­i­tal fund­ing short­age.

As­set and In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices Com­mis­sioner David Reynolds said the city has 375 “core fa­cil­i­ties,” 145 of them pub­lic safety build­ings, with 15.6 mil­lion square feet of space.

One-third of that “aging port­fo­lio” of build­ings is “75 years old or older.” Twenty-eight of those build­ings are more than a cen­tury old. The old­est is more than 140 years old.

“Of the 375 core fa­cil­i­ties, 265 re­ally need sub­stan­tial ren­o­va­tion or equip­ment re­place­ments im­me­di­ately. This ranges from new heat­ing, ven­ti­la­tion and air-con­di­tion­ing to win­dows, tuck-point­ing, roofs, all the way down to car­pets and fin­ishes,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds pegged the cost of get­ting into a “re­place­ment cy­cle” — de­fined as “re­plac­ing things be­fore they break” — at $210 mil­lion a year. In each of the last five years, he’s had $35 mil­lion to spend from bond pro­ceeds and tax-in­cre­ment-fi­nanc­ing.

“Be­cause of that, we of­ten just fo­cus on the very ba­sics. Things like dry, safe and warm. That seems like a pretty low bar. But in or­der to spread the lim­ited cap­i­tal we have across all of the fa­cil­i­ties, those are our cri­te­ria.”

The story is pretty much the same for the city’s fleet of 6,500 ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing 3,000 po­lice ve­hi­cles, 668 fire engines, trucks, am­bu­lances and SUV’s and 1,600 Streets and San­i­ta­tion ve­hi­cles.

The city needs to spend $95 mil­lion a year to get the fleet on a nor­mal re­place­ment cy­cle. But it has spent only $35 mil­lion in each of the last five years.

Trans­porta­tion Com­mis­sioner Gia Bi­agi said the city is “do­ing pretty well” on resur­fac­ing Chicago’s 1,000 miles of ar­te­rial streets. Only 5% are in the “high-need” cat­e­gory.

But when it comes to resur­fac­ing the city’s 3,000 miles of res­i­den­tial streets?

“That’s an area where we do need to catch up,” Bi­agi said.

“We have prob­a­bly about 18 or 20% of our streets that fall into a high-need cat­e­gory where we need to get to that work. So ac­cel­er­at­ing some fund­ing and the prospect of hav­ing an an­nual fund­ing source for those kinds of im­prove­ments would make a big dif­fer­ence.”

Bi­agi de­scribed bridges, viaducts and un­der­passes as the area of great­est need. Chicago has more than 300 bridges. At least 40 are “bas­cule” bridges with an av­er­age age of 83.

“We have a lot of back­log when it comes to bridges and viaducts. It’s prob­a­bly our most un­der-funded cat­e­gory. And it’s the kind of thing that needs long-term plan­ning to re­ally chip away at … bring­ing those bridges up to par and get­ting them to last for an­other 100 years,” Bi­agi said.

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