Long-term transportation funding will be a major issue for the Congressional lawmakers elected in November. The latest transportation bill action only provided funding for the next two years. And both Republican Judy Biggert and Democrat Bill Foster have ideas for what they'd like to see for long-term transportation funding that will impact the new 11th Congressional District.
Biggert was part of a bipartisan push in the Illinois Congressional delegation this spring to put the brakes on a Republican version of the transportation bill that would have jeopardized local mass transit funding in the eyes of most local lawmakers. Biggert ultimately supported a Democrat-authored version of the bill that came out of the Senate for a two-year plan that left mass transit money coming out of the same pool of highway funds as it had previously.
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Biggert and Foster agree a two-year transportation bill leaves too much uncertainty for the funding of local mass transit, road, infrastructure and waterway projects.
Biggert, in particular, has been a leading voice on the battle against Asian Carp infiltration into the Great Lakes. She told a panel of transportation-related interest groups Friday that she'll be a champion for Illinois' waterways if re-elected.
"None of us want to see Asian Carp get into the Great Lakes," Biggert said. "It would be a disaster."
However, preventing that occurrence can't involve shutting down the lock system that many industrial businesses use to transport materials and goods, Biggert said.
"It's just mind-boggling that someone would want to close down the locks and shut down traffic there," Biggert said. "It wouldn't just impact commerce. Chicago would be flooded if we did that. And many suburbs would be flooded as well."
Foster also recognized the importance of river commerce for the 11th District.
"The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal is vital to the financial health of Will County, and simply closing the waterway and disrupting these vital economic pathways is not the right way to address this problem," he said.
Foster called for further exploration of technical solutions to keep the carp out of the Great Lakes.
In a separate interview on transportation, Foster pointed to the pending high-speed rail line between Chicago and St. Louis as a key area of transportation funding for the 11th District.
"Joliet is the first stop on the high-speed rail link from Chicago to St. Louis," Foster said. "That will be transformative to downtown Joliet. It will make it a commuter hub and a better place to live for everyone."
The proposed Keystone Pipeline was also tied into transportation funding in the most recent reauthorization. The project would create a pipeline to move synthetic crude oil from Canada to various points in the United States, including Illinois. Biggert has been a vocal supporter of the pipeline as a project that would create 20,000 jobs.
Foster's campaign did not respond to questions about the Keystone pipeline as of Friday. Foster has not taken a public position on the project. His campaign has criticized Biggert's support of the project as being a conflict of interest. Biggert's husband owns between $1,000 and $15,000 worth of stock in the company that would build the Keystone Pipeline. Biggert has said there is no conflict of interest because her husband owned the stock years before the Keystone Pipeline was ever brought to the table.
Foster does support near-term exploration and oil drilling. However, he believes oil is not a long-term solution because of the demonstrated impacts on climate change fossil fuels have. Foster believes a natural shift toward the use of natural gas will occur, but ultimately solar, wind, geothermal and biofuels must play a larger role in U.S. energy consumption and production.
Both Biggert and Foster support the end of government subsidies to oil companies.
Biggert also favors expanded use of nuclear power.
"I'm very, very much in favor of nuclear," Biggert said during a recent interview. "Shutting down Yucca Mountain was a real mistake. We've got all these alternatives, but it's going to take more than water and solar and wind to have an economy that will be independent of foreign sources."