"I'm encouraged that Congress is finally moving forward with a multi-year transportation spending plan, and there are good reforms in what the House and Senate are discussing," said Illinois Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Doug Whitley. "However, the House version would put hundreds of millions of dollars for transit in real peril, while drastically reducing funding for Illinois highways. We must get serious about investing in our roads, bridges, transit and rail systems. Failure to do so will weaken businesses and the economy here in the transportation hub of America."
Under a bipartisan agreement that dates back 30 years to President Reagan, a portion of motor fuel taxes has been dedicated to pay for investments in public transportation. But the House Republican bill would end that guaranteed revenue source. As a result, mass transit could suffer significant cuts, badly hurting train and bus riders in Illinois.
The bill also eliminates funding for the Projects of National and Regional Significance program, which especially impacts the Chicago region because there are numerous major projects in need of funding here in America's transportation hub. In the last reauthorization bill, Rep. Lipinski was able to secure $100 million for the ongoing CREATE rail modernization project, which is critical for local jobs, through this program.
A provision in the bill that Rep. Lipinski attempted to remove in committee would force the CTA to choose between losing $36 million a year for buses and equipment or splitting into two separate agencies, one for rail and one for bus, which would raise costs for taxpayers through increased administrative costs. In addition, funding for Amtrak would be cut by 25 percent under the bill.
"The GOP House bill is an abomination for mass transit in Chicago and across the nation," said Javier Perez, Jr., international vice president of the Amalgamated Transit Union. "It's clear House Republican leaders don't understand the needs of the thousands of working families who rely on safe, reliable, affordable public transportation each day."
"America's addiction to oil imposes mounting costs to our environment, economy, national security and health," said Environment Illinois Director Max Muller. "It doesn't have to be this way - we can invest in?clean, efficient travel choices such as public transit that will?move our nation away from oil and toward a brighter, healthier future. We need a smarter, cleaner transportation future, not this destructive proposal which reads like Big Oil's Wish List. The House of Representatives should overhaul this bill."
"The bill needs to address the movement of freight as a critical component of our national transportation system," said Will County Center for Economic Development President John Greuling. "It is key to our global competitiveness."