Saturday was the "official" ribbon-cutting to mark the completion of the Howard Street station, a rehab of roughly $60 million. The usual dignitaries were present, including Mayor Richard Daley, CTA President Richard Rodriguez, Board Chairwoman Carole Brown, 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, State Sen. Heather Steans,
City County Clerk David Orr and 49th Ward Democratic Committeeman David Fagus.
Daley stressed that anytime he meets with Brown and Rodriguez, he reminds them that the CTA "has to be clean, it has to be safe, it has to be on time and it has to be friendly -- because that's what drives customer satisfaction." Brown confirmed that: "He wasn't really making that up -- he brings that up all the time." Good to know.
Daley also lamented that the state has passed no capital spending bill, which means "we have been denied federal money in matching grants. We have to be at the table -- we've given up so much in the last six years."
Amid the accolades from the assembled crowd for a job well done on the station renovation, there were some funny moments.
In mentioning that the Red, Yellow and Purple lines converge at Howard, Daley added with dry Irish wit: "I wonder who made up those names. I'd like to find out. Those are some unique names." He noted there were bike racks In listing some of the station amenities. "I like those."
A little later, Ald. Moore wondered facetiously during his introduction of the CTA board chairwoman whether the Brown Line were named after her. Everyone laughed, and then Brown said, "I hope I don't look old enough to have the Brown Line named after me."
Brown also said the CTA is "committed to eradicating slow zones." Later, she added: "I promise we'll try to be good stewards of (funding) dollars."
President Rodriguez reiterated the theme for the day: the need for more capital dollars. “Modernizing the station and making it accessible to customers with disabilities helps to meet the transit needs of CTA customers who ride the system today and for many years to come, and when additional capital funding is identified we will be able to continue these types of improvements," he said.
Before the event I briefly introduced myself to Rodriguez. I'm hoping he continues the informal chats with everyday riders and readers of CTA Tattler that we started with former President Ron Huberman.
Finally, State Sen. Steans told me as we were leaving that the state legislature is trying to pass a quick capital bill for this construction season, and then tackle a bill for the longer term. In general, she said she hopes to see the funding ratio of road to transit projects drop from 3-to-1 to 2-to-1.
I applaud that thinking.