Lipinski Leads Transportation, Business, and Labor Leaders in Call for Quick Passage of Transportation Bill to Create Jobs and Improve Region

At a press conference this morning in downtown Chicago, Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-03) and transportation, business, and labor leaders called on Congress to quickly pass a six-year $500 billion transportation reauthorization bill to create millions of urgently needed jobs and provide billions of dollars in funding for critical infrastructure projects in Illinois. Congressman Lipinski also urged Congress to avoid making the same mistake it made with the stimulus bill and ensure that the new jobs bill President Obama has called for and Congress could soon act on makes a substantial investment in our transportation infrastructure.

“In these days of high controversy, three facts are clear: Americans need jobs, America’s transportation infrastructure needs repair, and investment in transportation infrastructure produces jobs,” said Lipinski, speaking at Ogilvie Transportation Center. “It’s time for Congress to stop delaying and pass the $500 billion transportation reauthorization to create jobs and make desperately needed repairs to our roads, public transit, and rails.”

Congressman Lipinski was joined by a diverse group of attendees who support passage of a six-year transportation bill. They included CTA President Richard Rodriguez, Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association President Mike Sturino, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Jerry Roper, Metra Chairwoman Carole Doris, Chicago Building & Construction Trades President Tom Villanova, RTA Executive Director Steve Schlickman, Laborers District Council Director Mike Kleinik, CDOT Commissioner Tom Powers, Metra Executive Director Phil Pagano, President and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce Doug Whitley, CMAP Deputy Executive Director Don Kopec, and railroad officials, represented by Union Pacific Vice President Mike Payette.

"The CTA still has a $6.8 billion unmet capital need in order to reach a state of good repair," CTA President Richard Rodriguez said. "With additional funding, CTA could accomplish vital projects such as track rehabilitation, electrical substation maintenance, bridge repair, and overhauls of rolling stock. I look forward to continuing to work with Congressman Lipinski and the Illinois Congressional delegation to create additional opportunities to maintain, grow, and modernize the CTA so we can provide the world class transportation system CTA customers deserve."

"On behalf of the 100,000 members of the Chicago and Cook County Building Trades, I’d like to thank Congressman Lipinski for his initiative on this bill," Building & Construction Trades President Tom Villanova said. "Everybody’s talking about a jobs bill. This is jobs. The 24 trades I represent average 30 percent unemployment right now. This is a moral bill for us. We need this bill. We need the jobs."

"Chicagoland’s reputation as America’s transportation hub is under siege," Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Jerry Roper said. "We will lose the competitive edge we have if we don’t pass a long-term, six-year transportation bill. This is the way we get our people to work."

"In a very short five-year period, Congressman Lipinski has risen to being our leader in Congress on this issue," RTA Executive Director Steve Schlickman said. "His bringing us together today is indicative of that. The RTA, in partnership with the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra, and Pace, has already identified and prioritized the most pressing maintenance needs of the system, including replacing outdated buses and rail cars and repairing tracks to avoid slow zones. Passing a bill of this scope would provide the RTA and its service boards an opportunity to address these long overdue upgrades and improve our regional transit system and provide the best service possible."
Every four to six years, Congress passes a major transportation bill to invest in our nation’s infrastructure and promote economic growth. The last such bill was passed in 2005 and expired October 1. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has been developing a new bill to replace the now-expired bill for more than two years, and passed the measure at the subcommittee level in June with Congressman Lipinski’s support. With unemployment officially at 10 percent, further delay cannot be tolerated. Every $1 billion in transportation spending supports or creates 35,000 jobs.

But the need for jobs is only one reason we must pass the transportation bill. The fact is that both the Chicago area and the nation have tremendous transportation needs – from highway construction and road repair, to the expansion and revitalization of our underfunded transit systems. Chicago ranks second in terms of road congestion in the nation and congestion costs the region more than $11 billion annually. And according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, America would need to invest $1.4 trillion over the next five years just to bring the state of the nation’s transportation infrastructure up to a “good” condition. 

“While I firmly believe that it is the private sector that must ultimately carry America out of the recession, businesses remain reluctant or unable to add workers,” Lipinski said. “In the meantime, millions of families are suffering. That means there’s a place for targeted and effective government action that both provides millions of jobs in the near term and enhances economic growth for decades to come. That’s exactly what the transportation reauthorization will do.”

Congressman Lipinski’s strong preference is to pass the reauthorization bill. But the House is also currently working on a separate jobs bill that could total $70 billion. Congressman Lipinski believes that if this bill is to truly create jobs, a substantial portion of that amount must be devoted to transportation.

“I was a staunch advocate for sharply increasing the amount of transportation funding in the stimulus bill,” Lipinski said. “But Congress didn’t listen and the result was a bill that has not created nearly enough jobs. With unemployment in double digits, we can’t afford to make the same mistake we did with the stimulus, which devoted just 5 percent of its total spending to transportation. This is our chance to get the policy right and do what we should have done in the first place.”

“Nothing is assured yet and much could still change as work continues on the jobs bill,” Lipinski continued. “But I do think Congress may be coming around to my point of view on the proven ability of transportation investments to create jobs. I will continue to fight to make sure that any jobs bill that passes the House contains enough money for transportation and creates the jobs Americans desperately need.”

"Investment in capital infrastructure does in fact reduce operating expenses and it is a good way for us to keep our trains on time and give our customers the service they are demanding from us," said Metra Board of Directors Chairwoman Carole Doris. "Investment in infrastructure for public transportation, for public transit, is a job creation opportunity. We look forward to a secure, predictable funding source as we move forward."

"If there’s not work on the street, nobody’s working and transportation continues to deteriorate," Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association President Mike Sturino said. "We urge Congress and the White House to really get behind a true and significant jobs bill, something that works and makes sense. It’s been delayed and delayed. We’re getting frustrated. Our members are ready, willing, and able to get to work. I commend Congressman Lipinski for his leadership."

(December 14, 2009)