Advisory Concerning Inequities in Chicago’s Residential Street Infrastructure Management

A 2017 audit by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that the City perpetuates significant inequities between wards and underfunds residential street infrastructure needs by approximately $228.8 million annually, primarily because it does not follow best practices for multi-year capital planning. The previous administration disagreed with our findings and declined to reform its residential street infrastructure management.

To reduce inequities in residential street infrastructure funding between wards and to begin to address unmet needs citywide, we urge the City to stop funding core residential infrastructure through Menu. Instead, the Mayor should empower CDOT to fully inhabit its infrastructure management role. CDOT should conduct a comprehensive citywide needs assessment, prioritize projects according to need, and implement a multi-year capital plan for maintenance and improvement of both residential and arterial streets, in line with best practices. While aldermen and constituents should be encouraged to provide input, CDOT’s infrastructure professionals are best positioned to develop long-term plans and make cost-effective decisions regarding the City’s limited infrastructure resources. If the City chooses to continue some form of Menu Program, it should be limited to discretionary projects with no program or operational connection to core citywide infrastructure such as street resurfacing.

Responsible, equitable management of taxpayer dollars requires the City to take a comprehensive, long-term strategic approach to capital planning. Chicago’s financial concerns make it even more urgent that the City adhere to this fundamental principle of good governance.