Durbin Fights for Transit Funding Increase in Senate Transportation Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. –(ENEWSPF)—July 24, 2015. During the Senate’s negotiations on a long-term reauthorization of federal surface transportation programs, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) fought aggressively for robust funding for bus and rail transit program that provide services to communities across Illinois. Durbin worked to secure as much as $600 million additional spending for rail transit programs – which would benefit agencies like the Chicago Transit Authority – that were funded at a much lower level in the original version of the bill. This morning, the Senate began debate on a bipartisan, long-term transportation bill that was negotiated this week by Senate leaders.

“I could never have supported a transportation bill that neglects transit systems like Chicago’s CTA, so I worked across the aisle with Senators McConnell and Boxer to increase our federal funding commitment to commuters in this long-term transportation bill,” Durbin said. “Public transit systems offer safe, dependable and affordable access to employment, educational and healthcare opportunities. But communities across the nation are facing a crisis of increasing transit ridership and aging infrastructure that can’t keep pace.” 

The transportation legislation being considered by the Senate funds several transit programs, including: the Bus and Bus Facilities program and the State of Good Repair program. These programs benefit agencies across Illinois, including the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra, Pace Suburban Bus Service, Bloomington-Normal’s Connect Transit, Champaign-Urbana MTD, Peoria’s City Link, MetroLink in the Quad Cities, and others.

Durbin worked to increase funding for the State of Good Repair program, which helps transit agencies that are least 7-years-old maintain and repair bus and rail systems. In Illinois, the primary beneficiaries of this program are urban transit rail systems, like the Chicago Transit Authority, which is one of the nation’s largest and oldest transit systems. Durbin fought to secure an addition $100 million per year in additional spending through this program, which brings its total funding to $15.41 billion over six years.

The bill also includes $4.29 billion in funding for the Bus and Bus Facilities program over six years, which is especially 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.

After 33 short-term extensions of surface transportation programs, it has been nearly two months since the Senate passed a stop-gap measure to keep the country’s major transportation and infrastructure programs running through the end of July, when the Highway Trust Fund is expected to become insolvent. Durbin has long advocated for a long-term reauthorization bill that would give states and communities the certainty necessary to move forward with critical infrastructure projects.

“Congress has passed 33 straight short-term extensions of surface transportation programs, and in the last decade, not one has been longer than two years. We cannot patch our way to prosperity,” Durbin said.

Federal funding is particularly important to Illinois transportation. More than 80 percent of Illinois’ transportation spending for its 6-year plan comes from the Highway Trust Fund. Each year, nearly $1.4 billion is dedicated for highways, roads, and bridges and $600 million goes to Illinois’ transit systems. U.S. Census Bureau data shows the design, construction and maintenance of transportation infrastructure supports 138,701 full-time jobs in Illinois. These employees earn a total annual payroll of $5.7 billion and contribute an estimated $500 million in state and federal payroll tax revenue.

Source: www.durbin.senate.gov