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Doug Whitley and Mike Kleinik: Road bill is good news for Illinois

The Transportation for Illinois Coalition is proud to acknowledge Congress finally provided a longer-term transportation spending plan for our state and nation, while also streamlining bureaucratic hurdles that have often delayed progress. We thank U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin for his perseverance and leadership to make it happen as well as the 17 members of the Illinois House delegation who supported the bill.

Durbin and U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello of the 12th Congressional District were the only two members of the Illinois delegation selected to serve on the conference committee that crafted the final bill.

Our coalition of business, civic, labor and construction groups has worked for more than a decade to focus public and policy-maker attention on the enormous need for infrastructure improvements. As our roads, bridges and transit systems decay, that investment is all the more critical.

The plan approved recently by Congress finally brings some certainty after multiple short-term extensions of the law that expired in 2009.

For the next two-plus years, 68,000 people in Illinois will keep or have new jobs. More than $4 billion will be invested in Illinois’ infrastructure, for projects like the Route 51 expansion near Decatur, the Interstate 74 bridge replacement in the Quad Cities and extension of the red line in Chicago.

Durbin deserves credit for working through the bi-cameral and partisan differences to assure a compromise that provides long-overdue good news for our industries, communities and the economy. By putting more people to work on good jobs repairing transportation systems and moving the economy, we all win.

Illinoisans have a reason to be proud of our congressional delegation over the next couple of years after they set aside partisan differences and came together on a two-year spending plan that will pump billions of dollars into the nation’s transportation systems and assuring Illinois remains a major recipient of vital federal funds.

The Transportation for Illinois Coalition’s members has sought long-term, meaningful investment in our roads, bridges and transit systems for more than a decade. It is a relief Congress acted on this important issue ahead of the June 30 deadline.

Our coalition’s message was clear. If we work together, we can make a compelling case for how this investment in the nation’s economy will return great benefits. The public should know of the efforts of Durbin and their congressmen who supported the bill to advance Illinois’ infrastructure needs. They deserve our thanks.

Only U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh voted against the measure. Sen. Mark Kirk and U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. did not vote for health reasons.

There remains a lot more to do to get where we need to be, in Springfield and Washington, but we are hopeful the recent progress on transportation funding issues can be replicated after the election as we continue to pursue job growth and a more prosperous economy for the nation and the people of Illinois.

Doug Whitley and Mike Kleinik are co-chairs of the Transportation for Illinois Coalition.

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