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Durbin Fights To Protect Illinois Transportation

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) addresses a GOP House transportation bill that would dramatically cut funding for Amtrak and mass transit. (Credit: CBS)

roberts250 Bob Roberts
Bob Roberts is a native of Wilmette who has worked in Chicago media...
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WASHINGTON (CBS) — U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) will be at the table, when members of the House and Senate try to find agreement on the nation’s next transportation bill.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports, in a statement released Tuesday, Durbin said he will work to protect “important Illinois priorities” in several areas.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports

At the top of the list is special financing for the reconstruction of large, aging mass transit systems — such as Chicago’s. Right behind is a new funding category for “core capacity” rebuilding projects, such as the Chicago Transit Authority Red and Purple Lines.

“These transit agencies work non-stop carrying millions of people each day, and their systems are getting older and in dire need of repair,” he said.

Earlier this year, the amount of money transit users can set aside before taxes for their commutes dropped to roughly half that of the amount motorists can set aside for parking costs. Durbin wants to restore parity, at a rate of up to $240 a month for both.

He wants to assure continuation of a program that is designed to reduce congestion and, in doing so, improve air quality. The Chicago area gets $80 million a year from the program and has used it to make scores of suburban road repairs, build new ‘L’ stations and equip Metra locomotives with cleaner engines.

He also wants to help Amtrak get freight trains out of its way and improve on-time performance. He hopes to insert into any bill money for Amtrak service linking Chicago with Rockford and the Quad Cities.

“This is an investment we can’t afford to lose,” Durbin said, calling Illinois “the road, rail and aviation hub of the country.”