CHICAGO (CBS) — A House-Senate conference committee begins meetings next week on Capitol Hill to try to craft a new federal highway and mass transit program. On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin came to Union Station in Chicago to collect ammunition for the Senate package.
Not surprisingly, the chief executives of the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), the Illinois Toll Highway Authority, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), the CTA, Metra and Pace all said they backed the two-year Senate bill over the 90-day House stopgap.
“Maintaining that basic federal commitment to highways is a key component of any surface transportation bill that comes out of Washington,” said IDOT Secretary Ann Schneider, who said it also is important to maintain dedicated funding for mass transit projects.
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CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein said a 90-day bill would allow little to get done.
“This is not the time to disinvest,” he said.
The heads of the RTA, CTA, Pace and Metra said they have billions in infrastructure that needs repair or replacement, and said the Senate bill would provide a dedicated stream of money that does not now exist.
Durbin is one of two Illinois lawmakers on the conference committee; U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello is the other. Durbin is asking the rest of the Illinois delegation what voters in their districts want. He said Illinois needs to be “front and center” when decisions are made, and the money is handed out.