Senator Durbin Discusses Need for Long-Term Transportation Bill with Metro East Leaders

EAST ST. LOUIS, IL –(ENEWSPF)—July 20, 2015. Without Congressional action by the end of this month, transportation funding to states and mass transit agencies will be slowed down or stopped, jeopardizing infrastructure projects and good paying jobs in Illinois and across the country, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said today at a construction site near the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge. It’s 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.

“In less than two weeks, the authority to keep our country’s major transportation and infrastructure programs will expire. We cannot patch our way to prosperity with temporary, short-term answers to long-term problems. In just the past six years, there have been more than 30 extensions of surface transportation programs. This is not the way to run the federal highway and transit program,” Durbin said. “The Highway Trust Fund provides the funding for projects and supports good-paying jobs in the Metro East and across the country. The men and women building our nation’s roads and bridges deserve to know whether they’ll be paid on time and do not need another manufactured crisis to disrupt their lives.”

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.

Illinois has the third largest bridge inventory in the nation. Of the more than 26,588 bridges throughout the state, 16 percent are classified as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. In Illinois, the estimated cost of repairing a total of 2,872 bridges that fall into this category is roughly $9.4 billion, according to the American of Road and Transportation Builders Association.

Under a lapse in authorities, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) would be unable to pay back states for projects that have been pledged federal support, and no expenditures would be made on prior obligations.  At that time, states would have to determine whether to proceed at their own financial risk, which will likely result in an immediate slowdown or stoppage in construction activity.

The President has proposed a six-year, $478 billion bill that increases overall transportation investment by 45 percent. It gives states, transit agencies, and businesses a sense of certainty with a 6-year bill. Under this plan, Illinois would receive an additional $575 million annually to invest in repairing and modernizing our infrastructure.

Earlier this month, the Senate Public Works Committee marked up and unanimously approved its six-year, $278 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill called the DRIVE Act. The bill reauthorizes FHWA surface transportation programs through fiscal year 2021 and increases overall funding levels at an average of 3 percent per year.

Durbin joined Democratic leadership last month in writing the Majority leader to call for a timeline for Senate action, including a long-term bill.

Source: www.durbin.senate.gov