Earmarks are wonderful for the people and organizations for whom they’re designated. It’s a way to bypass normal funding procedures and jumpstart or finish a project. Instead of a bureaucrat in Washington, D.C., and your state capitol analyzing your project for its funding worthiness, you work with your locally elected official to get project funding.

Earmarks also help institutions ineligible for federal funding (for example: many local museums) get projects built for them. Earmarks may mean that your project starts getting federal grants earlier.

What earmarks also do is reduce the amount of money available for formula and Department of Transportation discretionary funding as well as lower the statewide “transportation pot.” It’s also probably immoral to use political instead of objective considerations to decide which projects are funded and which aren’t. 

However, with the right politician and the right group speaking in their ear, earmarks may mean the difference in your town getting that bike lane funded or not, because the state Department of Transportation continues to say no.

In the federal spending bill President Obama plans to sign soon, there are $7.7 billion dollars in earmarks, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS). This, so far, only includes disclosed earmarks (a handy table listing all earmarks and requesting politicians is downloadable), and the group is searching through the bill text to find the billions more in undisclosed earmarks.

Here I note a couple items of interest to Illinoisans in transportation (download searchable PDF with national table or download Excel spreadsheet from TCS):

  • Alternative Analysis Study for the J-Route Bus Rapid Transit (BTR) Project; $237,500; Rep. Roskam
  • Peoria Regional Airport; $950,000; Sen. Durbin
  • DeKalb/Taylor Municipal Airport, Various Improvements; $1,235,000; Rep. Foster, Sen. Durbin
  • CTA Red line Extension (Alternatives Analysis); $285,000; Rep. Jackson, Sen. Durbin
  • CTA Yellow Line Extension (Alternatives Analysis); $237,500; Rep. Schakowsky, Sen. Durbin
  • CTA Brown Line* (Capital Investment Grant); $30,00,000; Sen. Durbin
  • CTA Circle Line** (Capital Investment Grant); $6,000,000; Sen. Durbin
  • Metra Rock Island 35th St. Station Improvements; $712,500; Rep. Rush
  • Multimodal Center in Normal; $237,500; Rep. Weller
  • Paratransit Vehicles, West Central Mass Transit District; $104,500; Rep. LaHood
  • Replacement Heavy Duty Transit Buses, Madison County Mass Transit District; $475,000; Rep. Costello
  • Replacement of Paratransit Vehicles, Greater Peoria Mass Transit District, Peoria; $380,000; Rep. LaHood

And the list goes on. Click Read More for the notes about the CTA, info on Metra’s share, and BRT. Continue reading