Durbin: Senate’s Long-Term Transportation Bill Will Create Illinois Jobs

During intense negotiations, Durbin secured transit funding increase

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that the Senate has passed a long-term, bipartisan transportation bill that provides the certainty that businesses and state governments, like Illinois, need to plan critical infrastructure projects and create good-paying jobs.  Since the previous long-term transportation bill expired in 2009, Congress has passed 33 stop-gap measures to keep the country’s major transportation and infrastructure programs from shutting down.


Today’s Senate-passed 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.  Illinois receives nearly $2 billion per year from the Highway Trust Fund.


“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.  “I do not agree with every provision in this bill, but it will mean more federal funds for Illinois and the majority of Illinois’ infrastructure priorities have been protected.  There is a substantial increase in bus programs which benefits the entire state.  For transit systems, like Chicago’s CTA, I worked across the aisle with Senators McConnell and Boxer to increase the federal funding commitment to commuters.  I hope the House does its part over the next few months so we can finally send a long-term transportation bill to the President for his signature.”



Durbin Fights for Increase in Transit Funding


During the Senate’s negotiations on a long-term reauthorization of federal surface transportation programs, Durbin fought aggressively for robust funding for bus and rail transit program that provide services to communities across Illinois. Durbin worked to secure as much as $600 million additional spending for rail transit programs that were funded at a much lower level in the original version of the bill.


Specifically, Durbin worked to increase funding for the State of Good Repair program, which helps transit agencies that are least 7-years-old maintain and repair bus and rail systems. In Illinois, the primary beneficiaries of this program are urban transit rail systems, like the Chicago Transit Authority, which is one of the nation’s largest and oldest transit systems. Durbin fought to secure an addition $100 million per year in additional spending through this program, which brings its total funding to $15.41 billion over six years.


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. Just last year, Bloomington-Normal’s Connect Transit received $2 million in funding to purchase up to eight replacement buses. Chicago has also benefited from this program, and has recently received $10.3 million to upgrade the current fleet of Chicago Transit Authority buses.



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


National Freight Program: Establishes a formula-based freight program at $1 billion in FY2016 and increasing to $2.5 billion by FY2021 to provide grants to all states to improve freight movement.  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. Improves efforts to identify projects with high return on investment through state freight plans and advisory committees established under MAP-21. This is the first time a surface transportation bill has included dedicated funding for a freight program.


Urbanized Area Grant Program.  Increases funding from $4.5 billion in FY2016 to $5.2 billion in FY2021 for a formula grant program that provides federal funding to public transportation capital, planning, job access and reverse commute projects that aim to improve mobility and reduce congestion in urbanized areas.  The Urbanized Area Formula Grant Program is currently funded at just under $4.5 billion per year.


Research and Development, Demonstration and Deployment Program: Provides $20 million per year for program dedicated to public transportation research.


Highway Programs: 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 each state will receive each fiscal year. Illinois lies at the heart of our busy national interstate system with its interstates seeing more than 106 million vehicle miles of travel annually. The large number of federal, state and local roads require increased federal revenues in order to move people and goods safely and efficiently.


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.


Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure Funding: Allocates $850 million per year between FY2016 and FY2021 for the Transportation Alternatives program.  Dedicated funding streams for bike and pedestrian infrastructure have improved street safety and created alternatives to driving.


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.  


National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): Increases NHTSA civil penalty cap related to auto recalls to $105 million.  The civil penalty cap is currently set at $35 million.


Tank Car Safety: Provides additional protections for shipping crude by rail such as requiring that the newest tank cars be equipped with a thermal blanket, aiding in a longer burn time.  The bill also gives the Department of Transportation 4 months to issue a comprehensive oil spill response plan for railroads that ship crude, as well as new requirements for reporting oil train accidents. Finally, the bill ensures that the findings of an in-progress research effort by the Department of Transportation and the Department of Energy on the behavior of different crude oils in transport are integrated into future regulations by requiring recommendations to Congress on potential new safety measures.