In any era, metropolitan Chicago requires wise stewardship of public revenues to maximize regional benefits. Especially when federal and state funding becomes less sufficient year by year, we must ensure “prioritized investment” for infrastructure, development, and the economy to maximize regional benefits.

Prioritized investment extends beyond transportation infrastructure, to the built environment, technical assistance, and other public resources. For decades, funding of public services and infrastructure at all levels of governments has been stagnant or diminishing, yet costs continue to rise. Due to the need of new support for transportation in particular, ON TO 2050 identifies a number of alternatives to our state’s and region’s antiquated sources of revenue. We require funding methods sustainable and flexible enough for operating and maintaining a modern system of roads, transit, and freight, whose needs could continually shift due to emerging technologies and economic realities.

Coordinating investment broadly — by linking transportation with housing, or targeting public expenditures to attract private resources, among other examples — is also essential for effectively using limited resources. To maximize the benefit of precious transit resources, for instance, requires land use decisions that support residential and commercial development so people can live and work near bus or train service. Making the best use of existing roadways through strategies like improved responses to weather and events, or managing demand through congestion pricing, can limit expansion needs. Similarly, stormwater management investments can meet multiple goals by also offering recreational options and improving water quality.

Above all, prioritized investment requires close coordination across implementing agencies responsible for providing technical assistance or selecting projects transparently based on clear, measurable objectives. Local governments can take a similar approach to development through targeted reinvestment in existing places, paired with fiscally and environmentally sustainable expansion. To improve the existing system, we must address the backlog of transportation, water, and other infrastructure in need of repair or replacement, opting for expansion projects only when they meet clear regional objectives.

We must carefully target public resources to maximize regional benefits for mobility, the economy, and quality of life for all residents.