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Infrastructure News

November 21, 2012

Infrastructure Council, Illinois Chamber Fight for Action on Mississippi
Low water levels on the Mississippi River threaten freight navigation

This past summer a historic drought impacted much of Illinois and the Midwest, contributing to lower than usual water levels in the Mississippi River. Every year the Army Corps of Engineers reduces and eventually shuts off water flows in accordance with its Annual Operating Plan (AOP) for the Missouri River to manage the water levels of the river. However if the Army Corps follows its AOP on November 22, 2012, estimates indicate that waterborne commerce between St. Louis, MO, and Cairo, IL, will cease around December 10 due to water levels too low for navigation.

On Friday November 16, 2012 The Illinois Chamber of Commerce sent two letters signed by our CEO and President Doug Whitley on this issue. One letter asks the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to accelerate the process of removing several rock pinnacles while maintaining water flows from the Missouri River until the rock clearing work is completed. These actions will allow waterborne commerce to continue on the Mississippi River while providing certainty for the numerous industries that rely on waterborne commerce. The second letter is to Governor Quinn thanking him for his attention to this matter. Carbon copies of both letters have been sent to several state agencies as well. Copies of these letters are at the end of this post.

Since becoming aware of this issue, I have had continuous conversations with Governor Quinn’s office, members of the Illinois Congressional delegation, and neighboring state chambers of commerce asking for their support on this issue.

Yesterday over 60 members of the House of Representatives and 15 members of the Senate sent letters to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers asking for the same action our letters ask. Several members of the Illinois Congressional delegation need to be recognized for their work on this issue. Congressman Aaron Schock of the Peoria area was the lead office on a bi-partisan letter signed by over forty-five Members of Congress from all over the country asking the Army Corps to take action on this issue. You can read Congressman Schock’s press release which contains one of my quotes here. Senators Kirk and Durbin have also signed onto a similar letter in the Senate. In the House, the following Illinois members are cosigners:

Congressman Schock
Congressman Schilling
Congressman Kinzinger
Congressman Tim Johnson
Congressman Roskam
Congressman Dold
Congressman Hultgren
Congressman Costello
Congressman Shimkus
Congressman Danny Davis
Congressman Lipinski
Congresswoman Biggert
Congressman Manzullo

I continue to monitor this situation and will update members as soon as I learn additional information.

Schock Letter to USACE on MO-MS River Transportation_FINAL_2012.11.19

Quinn – Missisippi Water Levels 2012.pdf

Jo Ellen Darcy – Mississippi Water Levels 2012.pdf


April 4, 2012

Prospects Diminish for Federal Transportation Bill
Passage of 90-day extension could mean the demise of long term bill’s prospects 

Despite aggressive local and national efforts, the House of Representatives failed to move a long-term transportation bill before the March 31 federal funding expiration.

Transportation advocates tried desperately to convince House leaders to adopt the bipartisan, two-year bill that passed the Senate but instead Congress passed a 90-day extension which many predict will mean the absence of a long-term bill at least until after the fall elections.

In other federal transportation news, the House passed a budget proposal last week that cuts transportation investment by 38%.

Senate Hands Amtrak a Government Sponsored Monopoly
Licensing amendment would grind transit to a halt 

Numerous transit and passenger rail authorities are governed as local districts with either elected or appointed public officials helping guide the maintenance and growth of their systems. For example, in the Chicago Metropolitan Region, PACE, Metra, CTA and the RTA are all governed by appointed boards.

In a somewhat perplexing move, the US Senate included an amendment in the recently passed MAP-21 transportation legislation that would require the federal licensing of all of these agencies through the federal Surface Transportation Board…talk about a solution in search of a problem.

Interestingly the Senate did exempt one agency – Amtrak. Investment in passenger rail has soared and the private sector has expressed interest in partnering to provide service, but this amendment would likely halt any competition in the passenger rail industry. Contact me to find out more. 

Illinois Chamber Stands Up for Transit!
Doug Whitley and RTA stump for transit investment 

As long-term federal transportation legislation languishes, Illinois Chamber President & CEO Doug Whitley recently partnered with the RTA to brief reporters on the costs of Congressional inactivity.

Whitley was joined by Joe Costello, Executive Director of the RTA on a conference call highlighting projects that are at risk, including:

  • CTA Redline Rehabilitation
  • Metra’s planned reduction in delays on the Milwaukee District Line
  • Pace’s popular bus on shoulder program

News outlets covering the event included the Chicago Tribune, Kane County ChronicleBusiness Week, WGN Radio and CBS Local.

Water, Water Everywhere
Chamber supported Water Systems Viability Act flows quickly through the Senate 

On March 28th SB 3573, The Water Systems Viability Act, passed the Illinois Senate with a vote of 35-18.

The legislation, Sponsored by Sen. Haine, would be a shot in the arm for Illinois’ aging water infrastructure. For every $1 billion invested in water infrastructure 28,000 jobs are created.

The legislation now moves to the House for consideration. Please contact your legislator and lend your support.

Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee Public Meeting
Please participate via phone or webcast

The ACRCC will hold a meeting Thursday, April 5th from 1:30-4:30pm that kicks off with a media availability. The ACRCC is led by John Goss, from the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Increasingly, Mr. Goss is viewed within the Obama Administration as the “go-to” on all things Asian Carp and he has proven himself an expert who will listen and is committed to fact-finding for the good of the Illinois Waterways.

WATCH: The event will be webcast at:
Meeting ID: N2ND4H
Entry Code: Asiancarp

LISTEN: Dial: 877-656-5630 and enter 3858

Chicago Goes Big on Private Infrastructure Investment
Chamber supports and encourages Mayor Emanuel’s efforts 

Ever heard the expression, “Go Big or Go Home?” This past week Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel decided to go big for attracting private infrastructure investment to the City of Chicago.

At a speech in Chicago, Emanuel unveiled plans to raise $7.2 billion in private capital which can be leveraged for profit bearing projects such as water infrastructure improvements, road and bridge investments and transit projects. Private investments won’t replace public investment, but can help to supplement and make dollars go further.

For more details on the proposal click here.

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