Federal Transportation Bill Creates Jobs While Investing in Illinois Mass Transit, Highways, Durbin Says

Projects Moving Forward This Construction Season As a Result of Legislation

[CHICAGO, IL] - Approximately 68,000 Illinois jobs will be created or saved and the state’s highway and mass transit systems will be improved as a result of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act signed into law last Friday, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said at a news conference at Ogilvie Transportation Center today.  Durbin and U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello fought for Illinois priorities as the only members of the Congressional Delegation appointed to the conference committee that crafted the final version of the legislation. 


“The transportation bill shows the federal government recognizes just how crucial the industries that support tackling the wear and tear on our roads and mass transit systems are to our economy.  By investing $4.1 billion in our state’s highways and $1.5 billion in our mass transit system, the legislation removes the uncertainty local governments and transit agencies faced during short-term funding extensions and provides the security necessary to execute long-term plans that will benefit businesses and passengers alike – all while creating and saving good paying jobs,” Durbin said today at a news conference.  “I was privileged to help negotiate the final version of the transportation bill between the two chambers of Congress, and I am pleased that the final legislation retained many of the funding formulas so crucial to Illinois that were included in the Senate’s version of the bill.”


“The federal reauthorization bill, coupled with the $14 billion transportation investment from Governor Pat Quinn’s Illinois Jobs Now! plan, puts Illinois on solid footing to advance critical infrastructure projects and helps us achieve multi-modal benefits, thanks in part to the tremendous work done on the bill by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and U.S. Congressman Jerry Costello,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider. “More important, the legislation allows the department to move forward on all upcoming bid lettings, and will help create tens of thousands of jobs and boost economic development in communities across the state.”


President Barack Obama signed the Surface Transportation Extension Act Friday, 1,010 days after the previous bill expired.  Though the House of Representatives insisted the bill include no earmarks and tried to reduce highway spending by one-third, Durbin and Costello fought hard to ensure that the highway funding formula took past earmarks into account.  As a result, Illinois stands to receive its largest share of federal transportation funding in 15 years under the bill.  The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will put out 60 new projects to bid next month as a result of the legislation.  The projects total $106 million and will put more than 1,300 people to work.


IDOT’s next planned letting in August will include projects that together will generate 1,767 jobs and total $136 million, including the addition of lanes to Mannheim Road from Higgins to Irving Park Roads and Illinois Route 59 between Ferry Road and Aurora Avenue.


The transportation bill will also bring back $1.5 billion in mass transit funds. 

That means systems like the CTA, Pace and Metra will see an 11 percent increase in formula funding from the previous transportation bill. 


The bill also lays the groundwork for Illinois to secure additional funding for mega-projects in a few key ways.  It affords major long-term projects such as CREATE, the Elgin-O’Hare Western Bypass and the proposed Illiana Highway an opportunity to secure funding through the “Projects of Regional and National Significance” competitive grant program.  Those projects would compete with projects across the nation for a share of a $500 million grant pool modeled after the popular Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program.


It also includes a new focus on big old transportation systems, which was one of Durbin’s top priorities in the conference.  This is a big win for Chicago, home to one of the nation’s largest – and oldest -- transit systems – one that is beginning to show its age.   Chicago’s rail systems may also secure funding under the new “State of Good Repair” program established by the bill, which is dedicated to upgrading and maintaining old rail systems in big cities. 


Also, for the first time, existing mass transit lines will be eligible for Federal Transit Administration (FTA) “New Starts” grants.  The new transportation bill authorizes FTA investment in “core capacity” projects, which will allow existing train lines on CTA and Metra to compete for funding they were previously ineligible to receive.  Previously, only extensions or new transit lines could compete for the funding.   The program could be a significant source of funding for CTA’s plans to rebuild the Red and Purple Line and Metra’s efforts to rebuild the tracks and bridges on many of their lines. 


The legislation runs through fiscal year 2014, and is estimated to create or maintain more than two million jobs across the nation, while streamlining federal programs and the approval process for transportation projects.


The bill will create or save approximately 68,000 state jobs by:


  • Providing $1.5 billion to Illinois over the next three years for mass transit.  The bill reflects an 11% increase in formula funding for mass transit in Illinois which will allow transit systems like CTA and Metra to compete for funds to improve their service.


  • Authorizing $500 million for the Projects of Regional and National Significance: The bill authorizes $500 million in funding for a competitive grant program for projects of regional and national significance that will give our state and its communities the opportunity to seek additional funds for significant projects like the Elgin-O’Hare Western Bypass, the proposed Illiana highway and the I-74 bridge in the Quad Cities, among others.


  • Protecting the highway trust fund for mass transit and preventing it from going into bankruptcy.  The bill provides enough revenue to the highway trust fund to keep our transportation system moving through 2014 – ensuring we will stop lurching from short-term extension to short-term extension.  Despite some attempts to eliminate all gas tax revenue for public transportation the bill protects mass transit’s share of the highway trust fund.


  • Accelerating Transportation Project Delivery.  The bill includes provisions to speed up construction projects by cutting red tape and doing so without endangering the environment.