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Our View: Not so fast with more of our cash

Published: Friday, March 28, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, March 28, 2014 11:10 a.m. CDT

Metra is selling that it needs $9.9 billion for infrastructure improvements. Given years of mismanagement at the suburban railway agency, we’re not ready to buy into that just yet.

Like so many other Illinois governmental entities, Metra is fundamentally flawed. Until it can prove that it won’t misuse our hard-earned tax dollars on political cronyism (see Speaker Michael Madigan’s campaign hack) or on thieves and con men (i.e., the late Phil Pagano), or high six-figure severance deals to force out leaders who stand up to the cronyism (see former CEO Alex Clifford), we shouldn’t trust the agency with more of our money.

In a recent meeting in Fox River Grove, new Metra CEO Don Orseno said Metra has 380 railcars that are between 30 and 60 years old. We believe him.

But the problem is the way Metra has been run to this point.

Metra is an important resource for many McHenry County residents, who rely on the service to reach jobs in Chicago every day. It’s also important to the regional economy, allowing McHenry County residents to make a day trip to the city without having to worry about traffic or parking in the city.

Many times, Metra also has proven unreliable, especially this winter.

Orseno knows the agency has a long road to rebuild trust with commuters and taxpayers. We wish him the best of luck.

But any infrastructure plan needs to be thought through and transparent. Every possible solution should be considered before we throw more money at any state agency.

Consider what privatizing Metra would do. Consider separating it from the other Regional Transportation Authority ventures. Consider alternate funding or even increasing ticket prices to a point where Metra would pay for itself.

There needs to be a plan, a fully developed plan that makes sense, before more tax dollars are devoted to it.

Metra is important to you. It’s important to us. For all of our sakes, it’s time to come up with a solution that works for commuters and taxpayers, not for elected officials and their cronies.

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