Durbin Meets with Transportation Officials to Discuss Illinois Priorities for Federal Transportation U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) met with key transportation leaders in Chicago to discuss Illinois’ priorities and the stark differences between the House and Senate transportation bills.
BigNews.Biz - May 03,2012 - Durbin Meets with Transportation Officials to Discuss Illinois Priorities for Federal Transportation Bill
[CHICAGO, IL] - U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) met with key transportation leaders in Chicago to discuss Illinois’ priorities and the stark differences between the House and Senate transportation bills. Durbin and U.S. Representative Jerry Costello were the only Illinoisans named to the joint Senate-House Conference Committee tasked with working out the differences between the Senate (S.1813) version and House (H.R.4348) version of a national transportation funding bill.
“As the road, rail and aviation hub of the country, Illinois depends on a robust federal investment in transportation projects to keep its economy moving,” said Durbin. “The bipartisan Senate bill that passed in March would invest $3.7 billion in Illinois highways and mass transit over the next two years and create or save nearly three million good-paying jobs across the country. This is an investment we can’t afford to lose. Over the next few weeks, I will work with members of the Conference Committee from both sides of the aisle to advance a bill that creates jobs and protects public transit, rail and highway investment in Illinois and across the country.”
The Senate passed an overwhelmingly bipartisan two-year bill by a vote of 74-22. While not perfect, the Senate-passed bill will maintain existing funding levels for Illinois transportation projects, improve Illinois’ transportation network and save or create an estimated 67,900 jobs in Illinois. Further, the Senate bill includes several provisions that are particularly helpful to Illinois, including:
•distributing highway formula funds in a way that reflects all funds Illinois has received in previous transportation bills, including earmarked funds for important projects like the Mississippi River Bridge in Southwestern Illinois, , the CREATE project and the reconstruction of Wacker Drive;
•retaining dedicated gas tax revenue for mass transit and Congestion Mitigation Air Quality grants that help reduce gridlock on our roads and improve the environment;
•increase funding for mass transit in Illinois and allow CTA and Metra to compete for funds to improve their existing systems;
•passenger rail provisions that will improve Amtrak’s on-time-performance and help Illinois jump start new service to Rockford-Galena and the Quad Cities; and
•a new competitive grant program for projects of regional and national significance that will give our state and its communities the opportunity to seek additional funds for significant projects like the I-74 bridge, the Elgin-O’Hare Western Bypass, rail relocation in Springfield, and the proposed Illiana highway, among others.
Instead of taking up the bi-partisan Senate bill, the House of Representatives passed a three-month extension of the current Highway Bill. The Republican leadership in the House did not call its own bill (H.R. 7) to the floor, but the leaders’ public statements have indicated they would like to use that bill as their starting point in the conference committee negotiations.
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), Regional Transit Administration, Chicago Transit Authority, Metra, the Transportation for Illinois Coalition, Illinois Chamber of Commerce, organized labor and House leaders all strongly opposed H.R. 7