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Chicago considers leasing meters

The mayor's proposal would raise $1.1 billion for the city and increase parking rates for drivers.

CHICAGO - The city already has deals to lease an airport, a toll road and garages. Now it wants to add parking meters to that list to raise some much-needed cash.

Mayor Richard Daley announced a proposal Tuesday to lease Chicago's metered parking system to a private operator for more than $1.1 billion in a 75-year deal that would drive up parking rates but help the city weather tough economic times.

"This use of metered parking proceeds will give us the flexibility to address our worsening economy, protect our city finances and taxpayers, and keep investing in our city's human needs over the next few years," Daley said at a news conference.

Neighborhood hourly meter rates, now 25 cents, would climb to $1 next year and $2 in 2013. Daytime downtown hourly rates, now $3, would rise to $3.50 next year and $6.50 in 2013. After that, rates at the city's 36,000 metered spaces would be adjusted annually for inflation.

Philadelphia's Mayor Nutter last month proposed doubling, and eventually tripling, parking-meter rates in Center City and University City. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also has proposed higher meter rates to help with his city's budget crunch.

The proposed lease in Chicago, which Daley will ask the City Council to approve at a special meeting today, is the latest for a city that has already cut deals to lease other property, including Midway Airport and the Chicago Skyway.

Daley plans to pump $400 million from the deal into a long-term reserve fund, use $325 million to help balance city budgets through 2012, and spend $100 million on programs to support residents in need.

The remainder - about $324 million - would be a rainy-day fund "to help bridge the period until the nation's economy begins to grow again," he said.