Durbin Applauds Commitment To Infrastructure Investments In Presidential Budget

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said the budget that President Obama delivered to Congress today will spur job creation and help strengthen the middle class by making critical investments in our national transportation and infrastructure network.


“The President’s budget stresses the importance of infrastructure in supporting our nation’s long-term economic well-being. This is a message important to Illinois, where federal support for our airports, highways, waterways, and rail lines has created jobs, and helped make critically needed upgrades to our existing transportation infrastructure,” Durbin said. “This year, Congress faces a deadline on the future of our national transportation and infrastructure network, as we reauthorize Surface Transportation programs including the Highway Trust Fund; the Federal Aviation Administration; and Amtrak.”

The President’s budget includes a six-year, $478 billion surface transportation bill proposal which would improve safety, create jobs and will help repair the condition and efficiency of our aging transportation systems. The President’s proposal is a $176 billion increase over last year’s request and will provide a boost in spending on federal highway and transit programs over an additional two years. This six-year bill helps to make critical investments by providing the transportation community with greater financial certainty to help planning efforts.  Illinois relies heavily on federal transportation funds with 75 percent of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) spending plan and roughly 80 percent of the Northeastern Illinois Mass Transit capital budget coming from federal resources.

Increasing Investments in Priority Projects


The President’s plan would invest $1.25 billion per year in the competitive TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) Grant Program, which directs the Department of Transportation to invest in a variety of transportation modes based on applications solicited directly from states, local governments, and transit agencies.


Since the program was first established in 2009, Illinois has received nearly $272 million in TIGER funding to support critical transportation and infrastructure projects across the state including: the Warehouse District in Peoria, the Multimodal Facilities in Moline, Normal, Urbana, and Alton, the Chicago Lakefront Bridge in Bronzeville, and the CREATE project in Chicago.


Illinois has been the second largest beneficiary of TIGER funding across the country, receiving twice as much money through the competitive program than through traditional federal highway funds distributed by formula.  Assuming Illinois receives a similar percentage of TIGER funds as in years past, Illinois could receive $83 million from the TIGER funds proposed in the President’s Budget.


Maintaining and Modernizing Our Rail Network


The President’s Budget contains nearly $5 billion in FY16 funding to invest in rail safety, passenger, and freight rail investment programs. Since 2009, Illinois’ rail network has benefited from approximately $2 billion in federal rail funds, which have helped upgrade train speed between Chicago to St. Louis, build new multimodal stations, purchase new locomotives and train cars, and eliminate the rail bottleneck in metropolitan Chicago.  This program could also help expand Illinois’ rail network with additional frequencies and service to additional communities.


Growing Freight Rail


The President’s Budget includes $1 billion for a new program to provide a dedicated source of funding to improve the delivery of freight projects, increasing efficiency, and fostering economic growth.


The program is based on a Durbin-supported provision included in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) to establish a national policy to improve the condition and performance of our national freight infrastructure. Between one-third and one-quarter of all freight traffic either starts, stops, or passes through Illinois.


The President’s Budget also includes almost $204 million for rail safety and development programs, an increase of nearly $17 million. With such a high volume of freight traffic, Illinois – and the Chicago-area in particular – is uniquely impacted by rail safety issues and the increase in transport of crude oil and other hazardous materials along freight rail lines. Each week, an average of forty trains carrying one million or more gallons of crude oil travel through Chicago. Funding in the President’s Budget will support new rail and hazardous materials inspectors, expanded automated track inspections of rail track on crude oil routes, and the development of web-based hazardous materials curriculum to train public sector emergency response personnel.


Improving Rail Safety


The President’s Budget includes $825 million to implement Positive Train Control (PTC) – a communications-based system designed to prevent certain types of train accidents caused by human factors – on commuter railroads. This funding would help commuter rail carriers like Metra upgrade their safety systems and increase the efficiency of their rail lines. PTC is a critical safety tool that would have prevented two derailments that occurred on Metra trains in 2003 and 2005.


Supporting Mass Transit Programs


The President’s budget increases necessary investment in transit to support ongoing projects and expansion (New Starts) for buses, subway, light rail, and commuter rail systems.  This increase is critical for Illinois, where federal funding provides 80 percent of capital funding for transit in northeastern Illinois.


The President’s budget also includes $351 million for a competitive grant program Durbin created as part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), which was signed into law in 2012. Last year, the Omnibus Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2015 included $120 million for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)’s “Core Capacity” Program, which allows existing transit lines (or “core capacity” projects) to compete for FTA funding under the “New Starts” grant program.


The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) became the first transit system accepted into the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)’s “Core Capacity” Program in November 2013. CTA and the FTA have begun moving forward on the environmental work necessary for design and construction of the planned rebuilding of the CTA’s Red Line and Purple Line. 


Implementing Safety and Security Measures at Air Traffic Control Facilities


The President’s budget includes $8.8 million to implement the results of a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) review of security and emergency response times at air traffic control facilities, which was conducted following the sabotage of the air traffic control facility in Aurora, Illinois earlier this year. At the request of Durbin and other members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation, the Department of Transportation Inspector General is also currently conducting an investigation into the FAA’s emergency protocol and mitigation measures.