Durbin leads effort to secure 5-year highway bill
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) helped negotiate a landmark highway and infrastructure bill that will authorize and fund transportation projects across the country.
The Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act represents the final product of a bipartisan, bicameral conference appointed to resolve the differences between House and Senate versions of the transportation bill.
“This is a good bipartisan bill that reauthorizes our nation's transportation programs and gives state and local agencies certainty in planning for the next five years,” Durbin said. “As a member of the House-Senate Conference Committee, I was glad to be at the table working to protect Illinois’ important job-creating infrastructure priorities.”
Among the bill's many provisions, Durbin fought in particular to protect and expand the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Program, which provides long-term, low-interest loans for railroad improvements. Durbin said streamlining access to the program could help provide easier access to crucial financing for rail hubs, such as Chicago, and improve overall transit services.
The bill also continues the existing highway program, provides grants to all states to improve freight movement and establishes a competitive grant program for states to seek money for transportation projects with regional or national impact.
Durbin also pushed for an additional $100 million of funding for mass transit system maintenance. Similarly, the FAST Act will nearly double the amount of money available for repairing or renovating buses at facilities.
The bill also reauthorizes and funds major safety initiatives. The Positive Train Control System is a communications system designed to prevent train accidents. The new bill requires higher protection standards for the tanks themselves and also requires the Department of Transportation to hold railroads accountable for developing oil spill response plans in advance of a disaster.
The FAST Act is the first time during the Obama administration Congress has funded a national transportation bill that lasts longer than two years.
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