Durbin: Funding Bill For Departments Of Transportation & Housing And Urban Development Protects Illinois Priorities

Committee approves $120 million for CTA through Durbin-authored Core Capacity program

[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.


Core Capacity


The Senate Appropriations Committee, of which Durbin is a member, has approved $120 million to help move forward the planned rebuilding of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Red and Purple Lines. The funding is appropriated through a competitive grant program Durbin created as part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21).


The CTA was the first transit system accepted into the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)’s “Core Capacity” Program in November of last year. As the only system to be accepted into the program thus far, 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.


“This project will create jobs, and double the capacity of the CTA’s most used rail lines,” Durbin said. “Chicago is a world class city. The federal investments we are making today are putting us in the best position to provide world-class mass transit services in the future.’


As a member of the Senate-House Conference Committee tasked with producing a national transportation funding bill, Durbin fought to authorize a program that would allow existing transit lines (or “core capacity” projects), like the Red and Purple Lines, to compete for FTA funding under the “New Starts” grant program. 


In June 2013, the Senate Appropriations Committee, of which Durbin is a member, approved a Fiscal Year 2014 Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill that included approximately $2 billion for the ‘New Starts’ grant program. Of that funding, $120 million was set aside for the Durbin-authored core capacity program that the Red and Purple Lines were accepted in November 2012.


MAP-21 made significant changes to streamline the federal permitting and rating process for ‘New Starts’ projects. These new provisions were included with Durbin’s support to increase the efficiency and reduce the time necessary to move toward construction of nationally significant transit projects.  CTA will now have two years to complete planning and environmental work necessary for the Department of Transportation to determine if there is adequate justification and local financial commitment for the project to receive a full funding grant agreement from the federal government.



The 2015 Appropriations Bill for Transportation, Housing and Urban Development also 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. The bill also expands access to this funding for planning, design, and environment work to allow projects without significant construction ready components to compete. 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. 


  • Amtrak – $1.39 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.


  • Commuter Rail Diesel Exhaust Study – At Durbin’s request, the bill includes report language requiring the Department of Transportation (DOT) to conduct a study of the high levels of diesel soot in commuter trains and stations. Investigative reports by both the Chicago Tribune and WBBM – CBS Chicago have found elevated levels of diesel soot and other particulate matter in Chicago-area commuter trains.


  • Essential Air Service – $261 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.


  • 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.


Department of Housing and Urban Development


  • Security for Public Housing Authorities – Report language setting aside $23 million for emergency capital needs – including $6 million for 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.  


  • Fair Housing Initiatives Program: $40.6 million for the Fair Housing Initiatives Program which aims to assist people who believe they have been victims of housing discrimination. In 2013, six organizations and service centers in Illinois received more than $3.1 million to assist individuals and families facing housing discrimination.


  • Homeless Assistance Grants – $2.15 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) – $330 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) – $3.02 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 – $950 million 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.


  • Tenant-Based Rental Assistance: $19.6 billion for tenant-based rental assistance, which supports safe and affordable housing for more than 2 million low-income families and individuals nationwide.


  • Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD):This program help public housing authorities better address capital needs and preserve adorable assets by offering long-term contracts to allow for a more reliable funding stream. In response to high interest in the program – including from the Cook County Housing Authority – this bill includes a provision that lifts the cap on the number of units that can participate from 60,000 to 185,000.