...just left $153 million on the table:
Chicago and CTA officials have only themselves to blame for forfeiting a $153 million federal grant pegged to help ease traffic gridlock, U.S. transportation officials said Thursday.
The fumble marks a major setback in efforts to improve mobility in the nation's second most congested region. It means Chicago will be forced to put on hold a promising plan that would use bus-only lanes, special quick-boarding stations and high-tech traffic signals until city officials can try for funding from Barack Obama's administration.
Mayor Richard Daley insisted his administration was not responsible for the loss of the $153 million. "We did everything possible," Daley said at an event with CTA officials. He accused federal officials of being inflexible by refusing to extend a deadline to meet the requirements of the grant, which was considered a shoo-in since last spring when U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters signed an agreement with the mayor.
"Chicago waited too long to get their application submitted in full," said Doug Hecox, a spokesman for the Federal Highway Administration.
One of the fundamental omissions was that city and CTA officials failed to conduct an adequate number of public meetings, officials said.
The grant was contingent on the city's 2008 approval of congestion-pricing for parking meters, the lease of its parking meter system and related requirements.
At least it's warmer here than in Alaska, where some areas haven't had temperatures above -35°C in more than a week. (It's -50°C in Northway right now, for instance.)