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A Publication of WTVP

During my eight years in Congress, I’ve noticed no issue surfaces more often across the 18th District than the need for quality transportation. Air, highway, rail, barge—these are all issues people throughout central and western Illinois name as a high priority. Efficient and modern transportation systems are viewed as an important element for an area’s economic development, as well as for public safety.

When the new Congress convenes in 2003, one of the major legislative priorities for the year will be the reauthorization of TEA-21, the transportation bill. Next year’s transportation bill will cover roads and bridges, along with items such as rail-to-trail projects.

One of the projects we’ve funded in past transportation bills is the reconstruction of Interstate 74 through downtown Peoria, a massive project that will dramatically improve the safety of a notoriously dangerous section of interstate. It will also provide new or revamped exits in several areas that will complement the economic vitality of the city. This road project is the largest in state history outside the Chicago area, and I’m confident its timely completion won’t be deterred. The large majority of the money for this reconstruction comes from the federal government, and I’ll be working to ensure the money is spent on I-74 and not diverted to other projects.

With I-74 under reconstruction, the report on the feasibility of a Route 29 expressway due out this spring,—and given the tremendous support for Route 336 from Macomb to Peoria,—local leaders are now moving forward with plans for the future and are discussing what other items should be included in the transportation bill.

Earlier this year my office helped convene a broad-based group of citizens and community leaders from throughout the region to formulate transportation priorities for our area. This group includes dozens of people and represents environmental, community, agricultural, transportation, political, and business interests among others. Given the political clout of Chicago and the suburbs, it’s vitally important downstate groups work together to get their fair share of transportation funding.

With new legislative boundaries in place, it’s become essential to reach out to legislators who don’t live in the tri-county area and involve them in the planning for area projects. On the state level, people representing a portion of the Peoria area now hail from communities such as Decatur, Bloomington, and Chenoa. The group working on local transportation issues includes these folks, as well as people from as far away as Quincy.

It’s important to remember, as we formulate our own transportation priorities, that we need to work with other downstate communities about their priorities. Once the priorities for our region are identified, I fully intend to go to bat for this project on Capitol Hill. Hopefully, working together in a collaborative fashion, we can accomplish many of our long-term goals for transportation in our communities. IBI

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