Durbin Vows to Protect Job-Creating Illinois Infrastructure Projects on Transportation Conference Committee

Transportation bill is also likely to include Amtrak reauthorization, a top priority for Durbin

WASHINGTON, D.C. – November 17, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the House-Senate Conference Committee for the next transportation bill, vowed to fight for robust funding for transportation programs that create jobs and support Illinois’ priority infrastructure projects. Durbin – who took a leadership role in passing the bipartisan Senate version of the transportation bill – is committed to producing a long-term reauthorization of transportation programs that will provide the certainty that businesses and state governments, like Illinois, need to plan critical infrastructure projects and create good-paying jobs. Durbin also served on the House-Senate Conference Committee for the transportation bill in 2012.

“This summer, I worked across the aisle in the Senate to pass a bipartisan, long-term reauthorization of our nation’s transportation programs,” Durbin said. “As a member of the Conference Committee on the transportation bill, I am glad to be at the table to continue to work for Illinois’ infrastructure priorities.”

Durbin’s priorities in the transportation reauthorization legislation would maintain growth in investment for Illinois transportation projects, provide the certainty for smart planning, improve Illinois’ transportation network, and save or create thousands of jobs in Illinois.

  • Amtrak: The long-term transportation bill is likely to include a reauthorization of Amtrak and our national passenger rail network. Illinois is home to the second largest rail network in the country, with nearly 10,000 miles of railroad track and 7,737 public at-grade crossings. Noting that Amtrak has achieved record ridership levels for the past several years, Durbin will continue advocating for increased funding for passenger rail which would expand the network, improve on-time performance, and increase safety.
  • National and Regional Priority Infrastructure Projects: The Senate DRIVE Act created a new competitive grant program – the Assistance for Major Projects Program – that would give states and communities the opportunity to seek additional funding for projects with regional and national significance, similar to the successful Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program. The Senate DRIVE Act provides between $250 million and $400 million per year in funding for the Assistance for Major Projects Program.
  • Large, Aging Mass Transit Systems: The State of Good Repair program was created to help public transportation systems address the backlog of maintenance needs for America’s aging transit systems. The United States underfunds larger, aging transit agencies by $8.9 billion per year. In Illinois, the primary beneficiaries of the State of Good Repair program are urban transit rail systems, like the Chicago Transit Authority, which is one of the nation’s largest and oldest transit systems. During the Senate’s negotiations on a long-term transportation bill, Durbin fought aggressively for robust funding for transit programs, and worked to secure an additional $100 million per year in spending through the State of Good Repair program, bringing its total funding to $15.41 billion over six years.
  • Bus and Bus Facilities: The Bus and Bus Facilities program is critical to downstate Illinois communities. Just last year, Bloomington-Normal’s Connect Transit received $2 million in funding to purchase up to eight replacement buses. Chicago has also benefited from this program, and has recently received $10.3 million to upgrade the current fleet of Chicago Transit Authority buses. The Senate DRIVE Act includes $4.29 billion in funding for the Bus and Bus Facilities program over six years.
  • Urbanized Area Grant Program: A formula grant program that provides federal funding to public transportation capital, planning, job access and reverse commute projects that aim to improve mobility and reduce congestion in urbanized areas. The Urbanized Area Formula Grant Program is currently funded at just under $4.5 billion per year. The Senate DRIVE Act increased funding for this program from $4.5 billion in FY2016 to $5.2 billion in FY2021.
  • Highway Programs: Robust funding for the existing core highway formula program structure created by MAP-21 – including the Surface Transportation Program, Railway-Highway Crossings, and Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality (CMAQ) programs – is critical to ensuring that our nation’s roads are up to the task of moving people and goods safely and efficiently. Illinois lies at the heart of our busy national interstate system and its interstates see more than 106 million vehicle miles of travel annually. The Senate DRIVE Act reauthorized the federal highway program at an increased funding level for six years from $42.3 billion in FY2016 to $48.7 billion in FY2021, and increases the amount each state will receive each fiscal year.
  • Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure Funding: Dedicated funding streams for bike and pedestrian infrastructure have improved street safety and created alternatives to driving. The Senate DRIVE Act allocates $850 million per year between FY2016 and FY2021 for the Transportation Alternatives program. 
  • Positive Train Control (PTC) System: Positive Train Control (PTC) is a communications-based system designed to prevent certain types of train accidents caused by human factors. PTC is an important safety feature, and additional funding will assist commuter lines in affording this technology. The Senate DRIVE Act provides $199 million in grants for states to assist commuter lines with Positive Train Control implementation.
  • Tank Car Safety: The Senate DRIVE Act provides additional protections for shipping crude by rail such as requiring that the newest tank cars be equipped with a thermal blanket, aiding in a longer burn time. The bill also gives the Department of Transportation 4 months to issue a comprehensive oil spill response plan for railroads that ship crude, as well as new requirements for reporting oil train accidents. Finally, the bill ensures that the findings of an in-progress research effort by the Department of Transportation and the Department of Energy on the behavior of different crude oils in transport are integrated into future regulations by requiring recommendations to Congress on potential new safety measures.
  • National Freight Program: The National Freight Program is a formula-based freight program to provide grants to all states to improve freight movement. This program is based on a provision Durbin advocated for in MAP-21 to create a national policy to improve the performance of freight infrastructure. The program will also expand flexibility for both rural and urban areas to designate key freight corridors that match regional freight movement on roads. The Senate DRIVE Act funded this program at $1 billion in FY2016 and increasing to $2.5 billion by FY2021. It was the first time a surface transportation bill included dedicated funding for a freight program.
  • The Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing program: The Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program provides long-term, low-interest loans for railroad-related improvements. Yet due to certain constraints, this program has been severely underutilized. RRIF has the potential to assist communities with large-scale projects like the redevelopment of Chicago’s Union Station.  Expediting and improving the RRIF process – and also making these much-needed loans more accessible – will greatly improve the flow of traffic and provide significant benefit to the local communities.
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