Posted on Monday, December 16, 2002

State, local interests address transportation needs

   COLLINSVILLE -- Business, labor and community interests from Southwestern Illinois met in November as a united effort to support increased federal transportation funding for Illinois.

   At a briefing for area businesses, workers and elected officials listened to transportation expert Carla Berroyer describe federal transportation funding formulas and the importance of the 2003 Congressional discussion on transportation funding reauthorization.

   Beginning in January, Congress will consider the transportation funding reauthorization; the legislation will determine how federal transportation dollars are divided among the 50 states for the rest of the decade.

   Illinois ranks third in the nation in total miles of highway, Berroyer said, including three of the nation's five transcontinental interstate routes that carry the most commercial vehicle traffic. In addition, Illinois ranks fourth in the U.S. in terms of freight that is moved by truck. However, she said, Federal Highway Administration statistics show that Illinois ranks eighth in highway funding.

   "An understanding of current federal formulas and funding levels demonstrates that Illinois should receive more federal money to help us meet our growing transportation needs," said Margaret Blackshere, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO. "Additional funding would more appropriately reflect the prominent position Illinois holds in the nation's transportation network. More funding means more jobs for the men and women who work in road construction, transit and rail transportation. We can't afford to miss this opportunity to become informed about transportation funding and to reach out to our Congressional leaders."

   Transportation plays a vital role in the Illinois economy, she said, contributing one in six jobs to the state's work force.

   "Now is the critical time for Illinois businesses, workers, community organizations and citizens to become educated about the impact of federal transportation funding on our livelihoods as individuals and on the state's economy as a whole," said Doug Whitley, president of the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce and a key organizer of the Transportation for Illinois Coalition.

   "We believe it is essential for all Illinois constituencies to speak with one voice to our Congressional delegation, asking them to find more federal money for transportation needs in this state," he said.

   A statewide coalition of business, labor and community interests, the Transportation for Illinois Coalition has been organized to present a series of educational briefings on federal transportation funding and its importance to the Illinois economy. TFIC is partnering with local business and labor organizations in key areas throughout Illinois to offer the transportation briefing.

   "It is our hope that through a series of presentations on transportation funding we will highlight the important transportation needs facing the state," Whitley said. "This is an issue each and every one of us should be concerned about, and I know our Congressional delegation would like to hear from the public about it."


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