Leaders hail passage of transportation bill, Export-Import Bank

 

From Illinois Business Journal news services

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Key members of Illinois federal delegation hailed passage of legislation that funds transportation programs for the next five years and reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, hailed Congressional passage of legislation that will authorize Durbin – who was a member of the Conference Committee tasked with finding a compromise between the House and Senate versions of the transportation bill – said that the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act will provide the certainty that businesses and state governments, like Illinois, need to plan critical infrastructure projects, create good-paying jobs and support Illinois businesses.

On passage of the FAST Act, Durbin said: “This is a strong bipartisan bill that reauthorizes our nation’s transportation programs and gives state and local agencies certainty in planning for the next five years. As a member of the House-Senate Conference Committee, I was glad to be at the table working to protect Illinois’ important, job-creating infrastructure priorities.”

Amtrak President & CEO Joe Boardman said: “We appreciate the hard work and strong bipartisan support from the leadership of the Committees of jurisdiction in moving forward this transportation legislation. We thank Sen. Durbin and all of Congress for recognizing Amtrak as a vital mode of transportation and including Amtrak in the Surface Transportation Bill for the first time in history. The continued steady demand of ridership and expansion of service clearly demonstrates the need for critical investment in passenger rail.”

On reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, Durbin said: “This reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank is long overdue. I am glad to see it was included in today’s legislation. As businesses grow and expand, they often look to foreign markets where U.S. goods and services are in high demand. The Export-Import Bank – the primary tool supporting U.S. exports – helps at least 100 Illinois companies, more than 80 of which are small businesses.”

The Export-Import Bank is a key tool that thousands of businesses – including 3,340 small businesses – across the country rely on to access new markets, boost international sales, and succeed in the global economy. Every $1 billion in new exports sales supports 6,000 additional jobs. These transactions support $27.4 billion in exports and 164,000 American jobs all while returning $7 billion to the U.S. Treasury over the last 20 years.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, also praised the House’s passage of the five-year highway bill by a vote of 359-65. The FAST Act is the first long-term surface transportation bill in nearly a decade.

“I ran for Congress on the promise of governing and passing a long-term highway bill to fix our roads and bridges,” said Davis said Thursday. “Today, I was proud to vote for a bipartisan bill that makes critical policy changes and provides five years of certainty for Illinois and our local governments. I want to thank Chairman Shuster for his leadership and the work of my all of my colleagues to move this important legislation forward. Congress has a constitutional responsibility to provide for our nation’s roads and bridges. We must continue to build on this week’s success and use this time to find innovative funding solutions that will support a 21st Century transportation system.”

The president is expected to sign the bill this week.

Under the FAST Act, Illinois will receive roughly $7.5 billion ($1.5 billion per year) in federal highway funding, a $668 million or 2.8 percent increase from the MAP-21 average annual formula apportionment. For transit, Illinois’ share is $3 billion over five years ($600 million per year), the state’s highest level since 2006.

Additionally, this bill provides more local control by increasing the share of Surface Transportation Program (STP) funding that is suballocated to metropolitan areas by 1 percent per year, starting at 51 percent in FY16 and going up to 55 percent by 2020. Meaning local governments in Illinois will collectively see a $25 million increase of suballocated funds over the life of the bill.

“While this bill takes modest steps toward increasing local control of transportation funds, I believe there is still room for improvement,” said Davis. “I will continue to fight to give our communities, and particularly smaller communities, a greater voice in how transportation dollars are spent.”

Davis has spearheaded reforms that increase local control of transportation funds provided to states with his bill the Innovation in Surface Transportation Act.

The final bill includes several amendments authored by Davis including:

• Language to provide important relief to independent welders working in the pipeline industry who use their personal vehicle on the job.
• Clarifying existing law as it relates to the type of freight auto-haulers can carry on backhaul trips after they deliver their vehicles to car dealerships.
• Provisions encouraging states to use new assessment tools to identify mental health issues, substance abuse issues, and recidivism risks that will help identify underlying causes for repeat DUI behavior.

Additional highlights of the bill include:

• Streamlines the environmental review and permitting process, accelerating project delivery.
• Establishes a National Surface Transportation and Innovative Finance Bureau intended to provide assistance to state, local and private partners as they move various transportation projects forward.
• Creates a Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects Program to help improve the movement of goods across the country.
• Promotes the deployment of transportation technologies that will enhance the surface transportation system by reducing congestion and increasing efficiency.
• Additionally, this bill includes the House passed passenger rail bill among other things, specifically, this bill reauthorizes grant programs that can be used to relocate passenger and freight rail lines. Click here for more information about H.R. 749, the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015.

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