Durbin: Bill to Fund Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Protects Illinois Priorities

[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that the Senate Appropriations Committee, of which he is a member, has approved a bill to fund the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the 2014 fiscal year that will protect Illinois priorities, promote infrastructure investment and create jobs. 


TIGER Grant Program


Created by Congress in 2009, the TIGER grant program directs the Department of Transportation to invest in a variety of transportation modes through a merit-based competitive process. The grant program also ensures that projects across the country are funded and includes several provisions to balance the needs of urban and rural areas. To date, nearly $200 million in TIGER grant funding has been allocated to Illinois development projects such as the Warehouse District in Peoria, the Multimodal Facilities in Moline, Normal and Alton and the CREATE project in Chicago.


Today’s Senate Appropriations Committee passed bill would fund the TIGER grant program at $550 million in fiscal year 2014.  At Durbin’s request, the Committee expanded eligibility for projects without significant construction-ready components.  This will allow projects like the Springfield Rail Consolidation and the I-74 Bridge in the Quad Cities to better compete for funding for the project planning, design and environmental phases.  A similar bill passed by the House Appropriations Committee earlier today would zero out funding for the TIGER grant program and rescind $237 million in previously appropriated fiscal year 2013 TIGER grant funding that is not yet obligated.


“The TIGER grant program has been essential to our economic recovery in Illinois and will continue to play an important role in creating jobs and promoting investment in our state,” said Durbin.  “I have worked in the Senate to make certain that this program will be available to local communities in Illinois looking to jumpstart job-creating infrastructure projects.  If the House is successful in their second attempt to strip and rescind funding for this important competitive grant program, the future of projects like the railroad relocation project in Springfield and the I-74 Bridge in the Quad Cities will be in jeopardy.”


The city of Springfield and Sangamon County, with the support of the Illinois Department of Transportation recently submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Transportation for $14 million in funding through the TIGER grant program. 


The 2014 Appropriations Bill for Transportation, Housing and Urban Development includes funding for the following Illinois priorities:


Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations


Department of Transportation


  • TIGER Grant Program – $550 million in funding for the Transportation Infrastructure Grants and Economic Reinvestment (TIGER) grant program allows local communities to apply directly to the DOT for funding of nationally significant transportation projects.   This program is especially helpful to communities engaged in multimodal projects that improve connections to different transportation networks.  Several projects have been funded under the TIGER grant program in Illinois including: The Normal Multimodal Transportation Center, the Peoria Warehouse District, the CREATE project and the Tri-City Port in Madison County Illinois. A similar bill passed by the House Appropriations Committee earlier today would zero out funding for the TIGER grant program and rescind $237 million in previously appropriated fiscal year 2013 TIGER grant funding that is not yet obligated.


  • Amtrak – $1.45 billion for Amtrak.  By providing adequate funding to Amtrak, more than 500 communities in 46 states across the country will continue to see improved passenger rail service. A similar bill passed by the House Appropriations Committee earlier today would drastically cut, by 34%, the account Amtrak uses to conduct critical safety- improvements, inspections and maintenance, and increase capacity and efficiency of the nationwide system.


  • High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Program – $100 million in funding for the High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Program aims to help build an efficient, high-speed and emerging high speed passenger rail network connecting major population centers 100 to 600 miles apart.  In the short-term, the program aims to aid economic recovery efforts and lay the foundation for this high-speed passenger rail network through targeted investments.  The core of the Midwest rail network lies in Illinois, with the Chicago to St. Louis route as the high-speed backbone of the network.  New regional routes to the Quad Cities and Rockford will feed into the high speed routes originating in Chicago and terminating in Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis and Madison/Minneapolis.   The bill passed by the House Appropriations Committee earlier today provides no funds for high-speed rail initiatives.


  • Highway Investments – $40.3 billion in funding for the Federal Highway program. This funding is at the MAP-21 fully authorized level.  Federal funding comprises 57% of the funds included in the Illinois Department of Transportation’s multi-year highway improvement program. 


  • Transit Investments – $8.8 billion in funding for formula funded accounts.  This funding is at the MAP-21 fully authorized level.


  • Airport Investments – $3.35 billion in funding for capital investments grants at airports around the country.  Federal aid funding supports airport improvement projects around the state of Illinois including the O’Hare Modernization Program at O’Hare International Airport, noise mitigation measures at Midway International Airport, runway improvements at Chicago / Rockford International Airport and Quad City International Airport and safety improvements at Peoria International Airport.


  • New Starts Program – Approximately $2 billion for the ‘New Starts’ grant program which allows existing transit systems to compete for funding.  The funding includes $120 million for the newly created ‘Core Capacity’ program that Durbin authored in the recent transportation bill, known as MAP-21.  This program establishes a new category for capital investment projects by authorizing core capacity projects, like the planned rebuilding of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)’s Red and Purple Lines. 


  • Bridge Repair – $500 million for a competitive grant program that will help states bring their existing bridges into a state of good repair.  A recent report ranked the health of Illinois bridges at 15th of the 50 states. 


  • Essential Air Service – $146 million for the Essential Air Service program which was established by Congress in 1978 to ensure communities with commercial air service before airline deregulation could continue scheduled flights.  Without this program many rural communities would have no commercial air service at all, and residents of smaller cities would have to travel significant distances for flights.  In Illinois, Marion, Decatur and Quincy will be able to continue in the Essential Air Service program under this appropriation level and under the reforms that were included in the FAA Reauthorization bill.  All three Illinois communities have shown steady increases in ridership and subsequently, steady decreases in the subsidy levels over the past three years.


  • Airport Privatization – Report language was included at Durbin’s request to discourage the Department of Transportation from allowing cities and states to avoid repaying previously received federal funds when privatizing their airports.  The report language also requires Government Accountability Office to study the airport privatization program and evaluate whether or not the public interest is protected in these privatization deals.  In July 2011, Durbin introduced the ‘Protecting Taxpayers in Transportation Asset Transfers Act’ which would protect taxpayer investment in major infrastructure projects when local and state governments privatize roads, airports and other transportation facilities and require increased transparency and public involvement before major transportation projects can be leased or sold.


Department of Housing and Urban Development


  • Fair Housing Initiatives Program: $44.1 million for the Fair Housing Initiatives Program which aims to assist people who believe they have been victims of housing discrimination.  In 2012, six organizations and service centers in Illinois received more than $2.4 million to assist individuals and families facing housing discrimination.  South Suburban Housing Center has received funding through this program for the last three years and has used this funding to conduct fair housing enforcement activities and foreclosure prevention. 


  • Choice Neighborhoods – $250 million in funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative which promotes a comprehensive approach to transforming distressed areas of concentrated poverty into viable and sustainable mixed-income neighborhoods.  The program links housing improvements with a wide variety of public services and neighborhood improvements to create opportunity.


  • Homeless Assistance Grants – $2.26 billion in funding to maintain services for those currently receiving homeless assistance and to promote communitywide commitment to the goal of ending homelessness.


  • Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) – $332 million in funding for the HOPWA program which provides housing assistance and related supportive services to local units of government, States and non-profit organizations for projects that benefit low-income persons medically diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and their families.


  • Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) – $3.45 billion in funding for the CDBG program which provides annual grants to states and local governments to develop viable urban communities by providing decent housing and a suitable living environment and by expanding economic opportunities principally for low and moderate income persons. CDBG funding is an important tool for helping local governments to tackle serious challenges facing their communities.


  • HOME Program – $1 billion in funding for the HOME program which helps to expand the supply of decent, affordable housing to low-income and very low-income families by providing grants to state and local governments to fund housing programs that meet local needs and priorities.  HOME is the largest Federal block grant to State and local governments designed exclusively to create affordable housing for low-income households.


  • Security for Public Housing Authorities – Report language setting aside $20 million for emergency capital needs including safety and security measures necessary to address crime and drug-related activity at public housing authorities.  The report language stresses the importance of using funds to protect housing authority residents.  Durbin requested this language to ensure funding is available to housing authorities facing high rates of violent crime like the East St. Louis Housing Authority.