Durbin Discusses Importance Of New Transportation Bill To Illinois Communities

With the Highway Trust Fund set to expire this summer, funding for critical projects supporting hundreds of Illinois construction jobs are at risk if Congress does not act

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – With Congress preparing to consider a legislation to reauthorize federal surface transportation programs, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) met today with Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx to discuss Illinois transportation priorities and receive at update on the status of the Highway Trust Fund, which is likely to dip below the critical $4 billion funding level this summer. Funding from the Highway Trust Fund and other federal transportation programs is critically important to upgrading Illinois’ aging transportation network and to supporting job creation and economic development in local communities. A photo of today’s meeting is available here.

“As a former Mayor, Secretary Foxx knows from personal experience the importance of federal transportation funding to local communities,” Durbin said. “Illinois’ communities are at the heart of our national transportation network, and many of our local transportation projects have benefited from federal funding. But the American Society of Civil Engineers’ annual report card still gave the condition of Illinois’ infrastructure the low grade of ‘C-’. Secretary Foxx and I agree: the next surface transportation reauthorization can help make a significant dent in our infrastructure deficit, but only if we make significant, long term investments in our national infrastructure.”

Legislation reauthorizing highway and transit programs will have a significant impact on Illinois, which is home to one of the nation’s largest multimodal transportation networks, including nearly 17,000 miles of major roads, fifteen percent of which are in poor condition. Driving on roads in need of repair costs Illinois motorists $3.7 billion every year – nearly $450 per driver.

Today Durbin also spoke with Foxx to discuss growing concerns regarding an exponential increase in shipments of crude oil. Following a BNSF train derailment south of Galena last month, Durbin and U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL) wrote Foxx to call for renewed efforts to create the strongest possible safety standards for the transportation of flammable materials such as crude oil by rail.

Following today’s discussion about rail safety with Foxx, Durbin said: “As these tragic accidents become more frequent, stricter standards are needed to prevent from these fiery train derailments from occurring. The Administration should act now to finalize their rule to strengthen tank car standards. Improving freight rail safety is more critical than ever before.”

Five years ago, very little crude oil was hauled by the nation’s railroads. Today, more than 1.1 million barrels per day – with more expected – move by rail, largely originating in the Midwest. There have been four fiery derailments involving oil trains in North America since the start of February, including the one near Galena, Illinois.