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Durbin plea to LaHood: Don't let GOP mess with Illinois projects

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WASHINGTON--Budget battles have consequences and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) asked fellow Illinoisan, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, to lock in money for Illinois projects before House Republicans try to take it away under their FY 2011 budget plan, currently the subject of much debate in Congress. Durbin and LaHood, a Republican former House member from Peoria, have been touting the transportation infrastructure projects as a job plan.

Read Durbin's letter to LaHood at the click.

The Illinois projects at risk, per Durbin:


Illinois projects in jeopardy under the House Republican plan include:

· The Chicago to Quad Cities Amtrak route ( $230 million and 588 jobs per year for the first four years of design and construction);

· The Englewood Flyover CREATE project ($133 million and 1,450 Chicagoland jobs);

· The Wadsworth Bridge Replacement to improve the Chicago to Milwaukee Amtrak service ($3.71 million);

· The CTA's purchase of All-Electric Buses ($2.21 million);

· The Peoria Warehouse District Project ($10 million and combined with private investment 1,000 local jobs);

· The Moline Multimodal Facility ($10 million);

· The Barrington EJ&E Grade Separation at US 14 ($2.8 million); and

· A Hybrid Paratransit Bus for Grundy County ($144,000).

below, from Durbin.....

March 29, 2011

DURBIN TO LAHOOD: OBLIGATE ILLINOIS TRANSPORTATION FUNDS TO SAVE ILLINOIS JOBS

House Republican plan would eliminate nearly $400 million in funding for eight infrastructure projects in Illinois

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today sent a letter to the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, urging him to obligate as soon as possible nearly $400 million in Illinois transportation funding. Obligating - making a legal commitment to allow a project to move forward - this funding could potentially keep nine Illinois projects safe from rescission under the House Republican's 2011 Budget plan.

"Over the past two years, communities in Illinois have successfully competed for these critical funds," wrote Durbin. "For example, only 75 communities were awarded TIGER grants last year out of a field of more than 1000 applicants. Stopping these projects now by arbitrarily rescinding their funding would kill hundreds of Illinois jobs and hold back millions in private investment from Illinois communities."

The House Republican plan cuts $9.7 billion for transportation and water infrastructure nationwide. Because the plan rescinds all unobligated funding from the Recovery Act for high speed rail ($3.6 billion nationwide) and all unobligated FY2010 high speed rail funding ($2.5 billion nationwide), 25,000 new construction jobs nationwide will be lost with the cancellation of 76 projects in 40 states. The plan rescinds all unobligated TIGER funding provided for in the Recovery Act ($29 million nationwide) and TIGER II funding already awarded ($600 million nationwide) putting 30,580 jobs nationwide at risk.

Illinois projects in jeopardy under the House Republican plan include:

· The Chicago to Quad Cities Amtrak route ( $230 million and 588 jobs per year for the first four years of design and construction);

· The Englewood Flyover CREATE project ($133 million and 1,450 Chicagoland jobs);

· The Wadsworth Bridge Replacement to improve the Chicago to Milwaukee Amtrak service ($3.71 million);

· The CTA's purchase of All-Electric Buses ($2.21 million);

· The Peoria Warehouse District Project ($10 million and combined with private investment 1,000 local jobs);

· The Moline Multimodal Facility ($10 million);

· The Barrington EJ&E Grade Separation at US 14 ($2.8 million); and

· A Hybrid Paratransit Bus for Grundy County ($144,000).

[Text of the letter below]

Dear Secretary LaHood:

I am writing to encourage you to do everything you can to obligate transportation funding at risk of rescission from the House's proposed continuing resolution. As you know, House Republicans are insisting on rescissions to critical transportation funds that were already awarded to communities. It is fundamentally unfair for the federal government to award grants to states and local communities, only to then take them away.

The House Republicans' proposal would rescind all unobligated Fiscal Year 2010 TIGER, TIGGER and High Speed Rail funding and all Recovery Act funding not obligated by February 11, 2011. The cuts being promoted by House Republicans would take back almost $400 million in infrastructure funding for eight projects in communities across Illinois. Over the past two years, communities in Illinois have prepared detailed applications to successfully compete for these highly competitive funds. For example, only 75 communities were awarded TIGER grants last year out of a field of more than 1000 applicants. Stopping these projects now by arbitrarily rescinding their funding would kill hundreds of jobs and hold back millions in private investment from Illinois communities.

The House Republican continuing resolution would make cuts to programs in education, worker training, research, innovation and infrastructure. We should not force communities to return transportation funds that will put people to work now, nor should we ignore infrastructure improvements that will make their local and regional economies competitive in the years ahead.

Obligating these funds could potentially keep them safe from rescission. I encourage you to work with the Illinois Department of Transportation and local communities to obligate these funds as soon as possible. In the meantime, I will continue to work with the Senate Appropriations Committee to ensure any final version of a continuing resolution does not include language taking away these critical transportation dollars.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Richard J. Durbin
U.S. Senator


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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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