With federal transportation funding set to expire on June 30, Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.), Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), CTA President Forrest Claypool, Metra Executive Director/CEO Alex Clifford, and other transportation, labor, and business leaders called on members on both sides of the aisle to join together to finally pass a bipartisan transportation reauthorization bill before time runs out.
In the last 48 hours, intense negotiations between the House and Senate have gotten underway in an effort to reach a compromise ahead of next week's deadline. But a bill will not be passed unless enough members on both sides of the aisle put aside partisanship and push congressional leaders to reach a compromise.
"After nine extensions lasting 1001 days, we are coming together -- Democrat and Republican, business and labor, a variety of transportation leaders -- to tell Washington that it must act now; immediate job creation, congestion relief, and economic growth cannot wait any longer," Rep. Lipinski said. "In the last 48 hours, we have seen encouraging progress and a renewed commitment by House and Senate negotiators to try to get a bill done as quickly as possible. Whether it is a compromise forged by the House and Senate Conference Committee or the bipartisan Senate transportation bill, we must pass a reauthorization bill. At a time of high unemployment, and with the summer construction season upon us, a longer-term bill will create jobs, relieve congestion, and promote economic growth by fixing our ailing roads and mass transit. This is critical for Chicagoland, for Illinois, and for our entire nation."
"In eight days, current transportation funding comes to an end," Rep. Dold said. "We cannot continue to operate on short-term extensions that do nothing but continue to heighten uncertainty among construction workers and state and local governments. I urge my colleagues to come together and pass a bipartisan transportation bill that provides certainty for our long-term construction projects and includes adequate funding for mass transit."
"There are no Republican roads or Democrat roads," Rep. Biggert said. "Our investment in infrastructure should not be a partisan issue. And transportation managers in Illinois need a long-term bill to move forward on projects that will grow our economy and keep traffic moving."
"I applaud Representatives Dold, Lipinski, and Biggert for their bipartisan efforts in pushing their colleagues to pass a highway and transit bill this month," President Claypool said. "The transit provisions being negotiated could increase CTA formula funds by over $20 million per year, thereby allowing CTA to rehab rail lines, rail cars, and buses for the benefit of everyday commuters throughout Chicago."
Congress typically passes a major bill to invest in America's roads, bridges, railroads, and mass transit every four to six years. Yet at a time of high unemployment and inadequate job growth, it has failed to pass a long-term bill since the last one expired in September 2009, leaving transportation in the lurch.
"Congress needs to get the job done to secure jobs and provide a safe transportation system," said David Kennedy, Executive Director of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Illinois and a member of the Transportation for Illinois Coalition.?"We are so thankful that members of the Illinois Congressional delegation get it and are working together in a bi-partisan way to finally pass a transportation reauthorization."
"With the high price of gas, Americans are commuting to work on public transit at record rates," said Jordan Matyas, RTA Chief of Staff. "As our economy works to recover, now is the time for Congress to pass a bipartisan measure to provide the funding certainty needed to invest in transit infrastructure and create jobs."
Reps. Lipinski, Dold, and Biggert previously worked together to help defeat proposals in the House Republican bill that would have slashed funding for state roads and highways and put $450 million for local public transportation at risk by taking motor-fuel tax money away from mass transit.