Durbin: Senate's Long-Term Transportation Bill Provides Certainty Needed to Create Jobs and Improve Infrastructure

Bill creates dedicated funding stream for freight projects for first time

[DECATUR] – Businesses and state governments would have the certainty they need to plan critical infrastructure projects if the long-term bi-partisan transportation bill passed by the U.S. Senate becomes law, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said today following a tour of the Midwest Inland Port in Decatur. Since 2009, Congress has passed 34 stop-gap measures to keep the country’s major transportation and infrastructure programs from shutting down, with the most recent vote in late July– the third extension this year alone.  While the Senate passed a 6-year transportation bill across party lines, the House of Representatives has not brought the Senate's long-term bill up for a vote.

“This long-term transportation bill reflects a bipartisan effort to provide businesses and state and local governments with more certainty so they can plan for the future,” said Durbin.  "We cannot patch our way to prosperity with temporary, short-term answers to long-term problems. The Senate’s bill is the type of investment we need to improve our freight system and our nation’s roadways. I hope the House takes quick action on the bill when Congress reconvenes in September.”

The Senate's Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act reauthorizes surface transportation programs for six years through fiscal year 2021. Specifically, the bill promotes continued growth in the highway and transit funding, includes funding for Positive Train Control implementation and creates a national freight rail program. 

Federal funding is particularly important to Illinois transportation. More than 80 percent of Illinois’ transportation spending for its 6-year plan, approximately $2 billion per year, comes from the Highway Trust Fund.  The DRIVE Act reauthorizes the federal highway program at an increased funding level for six years from $42.3 billion in FY2016 to $48.7 billion in FY2021.  The bill maintains the existing core highway formula program structure from MAP-21 such as the Surface Transportation Program, Railway-Highway Crossings, and Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality (CMAQ) programs, and increases the amount Illinois will receive each fiscal year.

The DRIVE Act marks the first time a surface transportation bill has included dedicated funding for a freight program -- an $11.7 billion authorization over 6 years. The funds can be used for a wide variety of projects, including highway-rail grade separation, truck parking facilities, and multimodal projects like The Midwest Inland Port.  This program is based on a provision Senator Durbin advocated for in MAP-21 to create a national policy to improve the performance of freight infrastructure.  The program will also expand flexibility for both rural and urban areas to designate key freight corridors that match regional freight movement on roads.

The following additional programs included in the DRIVE Act will have a positive impact on Illinois transportation and infrastructure:

Assistance for Major Projects (AMP) Program: Provides between $250 million and $400 million per year in funding for projects with regional and national significance through a competitive grant program similar to the successful Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program.

Positive Train Control (PTC) System: Provides $199 million in grants to assist commuter lines with Positive Train Control implementation.  PTC is an important safety feature, and this funding will assist commuter lines in affording this technology. 

The bill also includes $4.29 billion in funding for the Bus and Bus Facilities program over six years, which is especially critical to downstate Illinois communities.