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Duckworth’s first bill, aiding transportation planners, becomes law

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Just over four months after she was sworn in as a U.S. senator, Tammy Duckworth’s first bill became law on Friday in what she described as record time.

duckworth tammy squareThe bipartisan legislation, which was signed by the president Friday, passed the Senate unanimously just 64 days into Duckworth’s first term and passed the House of Representatives late last month. The bill’s signing marks the fastest time any current senator has passed a bill after being sworn in, she said.

The new law supports Illinois jobs and prevents infrastructure projects from becoming ensnared in needless bureaucratic delays by rolling back a U.S. Department of Transportation rule that had enabled the governors of neighboring states to delay or block infrastructure improvements in Illinois. A DOT analysis estimated the law will save taxpayers an estimated $86.3 million annually.

“When I was sworn in as Illinois’ newest U.S. senator, I said I was eager to get to work on common-sense solutions for Illinois families that members on both sides of the aisle can agree on,” Duckworth said. “My first Senate bill and the speed at which it has become law shows that I was serious. Red tape shouldn’t hurt our economy or stifle job growth and I want to thank my congressional colleagues who played an important role in enacting this important legislation. I’ll keep working to support hard-working Illinoisans and help grow good-paying Illinois jobs.”

To secure the legislation’s passage, Duckworth assembled a bipartisan coalition of co-sponsors: U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, was among them.

The legislation was endorsed by the National Association of Regional Councils, Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations and Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

“S. 496 repeals the overly burdensome U.S. DOT ruling on ‘Metropolitan Planning Organization Coordination and Planning Area Reform,’ and ensures that CMAP and our neighboring MPOs in northwest Indiana and southwestern Wisconsin can maintain the integrity of our regional planning processes,” said CMAP Executive Director Joseph C. Szabo. “We look forward to continuing our transportation and land use planning as the Chicago region’s MPO, while coordinating closely with our neighbors.”

Since arriving in the Senate, Duckworth has highlighted the problems with the now repealed DOT rule. She questioned U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee about how the rule would disrupt important transportation projects. She also discussed the need to repeal the misguided MPO rule with elected leaders and transportation officials at several events across Illinois, including at roundtable discussions in Chicago and Quincy, and at the groundbreaking of a new rail car facility in Chicago.

The DOT rule, called the “MPO Coordination and Planning Area Reform” rule, was finalized in December 2016, despite widespread opposition from transportation stakeholders throughout the country. It required certain MPOs to merge with their counterparts in other states if they are designated by the U.S. Census Bureau as sharing an urban area. If it had been allowed to go forward, the rule would have forced Illinois’s 16 MPOs to merge with MPOs in Wisconsin and Indiana, and empowered the Governors of Wisconsin and Indiana to potentially block critical transportation improvement projects in Illinois. The DOT estimated that rescinding the MPO rule will save taxpayers an estimated $86.3 million annually, which translates into savings of $431.5 million over five years, and $863 million over 10 years.

 – From the Illinois Business Journal

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