Feds award Chicago subway $35M grant

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The Department of Transportation (DOT) said Thursday that it is awarding $35 million to the Chicago "L" subway system to help pay for service improvement on the nation's third busiest public transit network.

The agency said the money will come from the Federal Transit Administration's Core Capacity grant program that is designed to help transit networks improve service on their existing subway lines.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said it was important to provide funding for the upkeep of busy rail lines around the U.S.

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“The City of Chicago has run on public transportation for over a century, and it is up to all of us to ensure that the many thousands of riders who cross this city by train every day to get to work, to school, to the doctor’s, or even to see the Cubs or White Sox, can continue do so safely, efficiently, and comfortably,” Foxx said in a statement announcing the grant. “Congress should pass the President’s GROW AMERICA Act so we can support more projects like this in transit-intensive cities across the country.”

The Chicago "L" subway is the third busiest public transit system in the U.S., with an average of weekday ridership of 734,900, according to the American Public Transportation Association. The Chicago subway is only surpassed by the New York City subway and Washington, D.C.'s Metrorail in U.S. transit ridership, and is longer than the Metro in route mileage.

Acting FTA Administrator Therese McMillan agreed with Foxx that it was as important to properly maintain existing transit systems as it was to build new ones.

"While Chicago’s transit systems face state-of-good-repair challenges, we cannot ignore the equally important need to modernize the current system to meet rising demand for service now, and for years to come,” McMillan said in a statement. “The need is equally great in cities across the country—from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco—which is why we must  keep pace with investments in a 21st century transportation systems that generations depend on.”

The "L" nickname is a reference to the fact that most of the Chicago transit system's downtown tracks are elevated.