Chicago Region Stands Up for Transportation

April 10, 2015
Local transit officials, Amtrak and political leaders met in Chicago's Union Station to urge Congress to stand up for transportation and support consistent, long-term funding for the nation's transportation and transit systems.

Highlighting the need for long-term federal funding for transportation, local public transportation officials, Amtrak and political leaders met in Chicago’s Union Station urging Congress to stand up for transportation and support consistent long-term funding for the nation's transportation and transit systems.

The press conference focused on Move Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), which expires on May 31 and the Highway Trust Fund, which will be facing insolvency this summer.

“The RTA is proud to stand unified with the CTA, Metra and Pace in recognizing our need for Congress to pass a sensible, long-term surface transportation bill that fully funds our region’s and nation’s public transit needs,” said Regional Transportation Authority Chairman Kirk Dillard. “The residents of northeastern Illinois deserve reliable and affordable public transit options to get them to work, school, the doctor’s office and everywhere in between.”

He said the model of the fuel tax is outdated and not worth as much when it was started, due to it not keeping up with inflation. “We want Congress to pass a long-term surface transportation bill that will fund us,” he stated. “We cannot do more with less.”

The RTA’s region’s transit system has been severely underfunded by federal and state resources for many years. The system covers six counties, representing 70 percent of the state’s population and has the second-largest transit operation in the country by passenger miles traveled, behind New York. Without the needed federal assistance, the region may not be able to make the capital investments required to meet its growing transit needs.

The RTA, CTA, Metra and Pace have taken action to address this capital shortfall on their own, issuing bonds, pursuing other financing tools, implementing fare increases and instituting operational efficiencies. While these actions have offered some support, the magnitude of this challenge makes it impossible for these actions alone to sufficiently address the problem.

“Whether you travel by plane, train or automobile, you rely on a national transportation network built with federal investment in order to get you where you’re going,” said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL).  “Chicago has one of the finest transportation systems in the nation and we need the resources to maintain it. Long-term transportation bills used to be an area of bi-partisan agreement. I hope they'll soon be again. We need a commitment to our transportation network that will create jobs and keep America competitive in the global economy.”

"Simply put, we cannot continue to kick the can down the road on a highway and transit funding bill," said Congressman Dan Lipinski. “As the most senior member from Illinois on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and representing a district that is crisscrossed by every mode of private and public transit, I understand the need to pass a comprehensive long-term bill instead of searching under the federal couch cushions for money every few months to avoid a funding crisis. In the last six years, there have been eleven short-term extensions. As founding co-chair of the Congressional Public Transit Caucus, I know what a disaster this has been for transit. We need a fix, not a band-aid.”

“As the nation's transportation hub, our transportation infrastructure serves as the backbone of Chicago's economic success. Transit and rail alone generate an estimated $12 billion in annual economic benefits and support 120,000 jobs to the region. But our crumbling infrastructure is slowing economic growth, and without serious long-term investments in our transportation infrastructure, we simply will not be able to compete in today's global economy." said Congressman Mike Quigley. "As the only Illinois member of the House Appropriations Committee, I am proud to stand in support of a comprehensive long-term transportation bill that creates jobs, spurs economic growth, and provides States and localities the certainty they need to plan for the future.”

“Investing in transportation and infrastructure is essential to ensuring businesses have the resources they need to thrive,” said Congressman Bill Foster. “While this was an important step to protect the Highway Trust Fund from going bankrupt, and to continue planning for long-term construction projects, it is critical that we pass a funding bill that addresses our long-term needs.”

“The importance of transportation infrastructure is something we should all be able to agree on.  Better highways, railways and busses mean a quicker morning commute and a more productive workforce," Representative Dold said. "In my hometown area, where we have the third largest manufacturing district in the nation, we need the infrastructure to attract new businesses and support our local companies.  I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure we pass a robust and long-term transportation funding bill.”

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Aug. 9, 2012