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updated: 2/21/2012 7:18 PM

Biggert, Dold, Lipinski propose bipartisan changes to transportation bill

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  • Judy Biggert

      Judy Biggert

  • Robert Dold

      Robert Dold

  • Dan Lipinski

      Dan Lipinski

 
 

Three suburban members of Congress have reached across the aisle to advocate for changes to the $260 billion House transportation bill, arguing that its current form would be problematic for the region's roads and rails.

Republican 10th District Congressman Robert Dold of Kenilworth, Republican 13th District Congresswoman Judy Biggert of Hinsdale and Democratic 3rd District Congressman Dan Lipinski of Western Springs say they want amendments added to the legislation, which could cost the state millions.

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The three lawmakers back restoring a guarantee that some money raised though federal fuel taxes go toward mass transit. The current bill would require that all the money go for highway programs.

Dold, Biggert and Lipinski are also seeking money for the transportation-related Projects of National and Regional Significance program. In addition, they want to make sure that transit riders -- who help relieve congestion on local roads -- continue to receive a fair pretax benefit for their costs. Under the current bill, commuters who drive get more of a tax benefit.

Rep. Randy Hultgren, a Winfield Republican, is also a co-sponsor of the amendment to restore mass transit funding.

The vote on the bill stalled as leaders -- including GOP Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam of Wheaton -- struggled to collect the necessary support to pass the measure that funds highways, bridges, energy infrastructure and transit.

Biggert said Tuesday that suburban lawmakers, in particular, have expressed concerns about the bill during the frequent "listening sessions" members of leadership hold with rank-and-file members to explain upcoming legislation.

The Illinois Department of Transportation says the legislation in its current form would deprive Illinois of $900 million in federal funds for highways. Dold says $450 million more in mass transit funding is at risk because it would no longer get a reliable stream of funding from the federal gasoline tax.

"We rely on a steady, reliable flow of federal dollars to fund our capital needs," RTA Chairman John Gates said Tuesday. "If (funding) does not come back to a reliable state it will become much more expensive if not impossible to put this system back into a state of good repair."

A vote is expected on the legislation in the coming weeks, but Lipinski and Biggert Tuesday predicted it might take some time.

"There are an awful lot of new members on our side of the aisle who have never been through a transportation bill," Biggert said.

An alternative transportation bill is being considered in the Senate, a measure Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin of Springfield says would better protect the state's transportation agencies.

• Daily Herald news services contributed to this report.

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