Washington, DC – Congressmen Bobby Schilling (IL-17) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) today joined 371 of their colleagues in supporting H.R. 4348, legislation to reauthorize federal surface transportation programs. The last transportation authorization expired in 2009, and since that time has operated on a series of nine short term extensions. The reauthorization passed the House today in a bipartisan vote of 373-52.
Schilling and Loebsack, representing the Quad Cities area, have worked in a bipartisan fashion to push for the longest possible transportation bill, and successfully called on the members in the House and Senate who negotiated the comprehensive highway legislation to include funding for large interstate bridge projects. H.R. 4348 authorizes $500 million for Projects of National and Regional Significance, an important program to advance the Quad Cities’ I-74 Bridge. This provision provides the tools for the governors of Iowa and Illinois, the states’ Departments of Transportation, and the states’ bipartisan congressional delegation to make the case for the I-74 Bridge for inclusion in the Projects of Regional and National Significance report that will be put together by the United States Secretary of Transportation on projects to be included in this program.
“Today’s transportation bill is a win for communities in Illinois and throughout America,” Schilling said. “I’m pleased that the bill we voted on today provides certainty to states, communities, and the construction community of continued federal support for transportation projects, and am particularly pleased that it includes Programs of National and Regional Significance. Dave and I have been working hard on this, and I’m hopeful that we can continue working across the river and across the aisle to move the I-74 Bridge project and other transportation priorities forward. Preserving our roads and bridges isn’t a Republican issue or a Democrat issue, but a red, white and blue issue.”
“Since the beginning of debate over the transportation bill, we have been working together to ensure a large projects initiative, which may help the I-74 bridge move toward completion, was included,” said Loebsack. “Additionally, we have already started working together to best position I-74 to take advantage of this funding. I am pleased a transportation bill has finally been passed and although it could have been done faster and it could have been longer, it will help create much needed jobs in Iowa and give Iowa communities certainty to invest in much needed infrastructure improvements and economic development initiatives.”
Schilling and Loebsack in April sent letters in support of the I-74 Bridge to the Federal Highway Administration Administrator Victor Mendez and United States Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who in May joined the Congressmen in the Quad Cities to view the Bridge. They sent a letter of support to House/Senate conferees in April, and reiterated their support for the longest-term bill possible and Projects of National and Regional Significance in a letter on Friday June 22.
“The Quad Cities region has aggressively advocated for a federal transportation bill to fund nationally significant infrastructure projects, such as the new I-74 Bridge, that will strengthen the region’s and nation’s economic competitiveness,” said Tara Barney, Quad Cities Chamber CEO. “The Chamber thanks our Congressional delegation for passing a transportation bill with bipartisan support. We’re optimistic this will result in a major federal investment to construct the new I-74 Bridge and maintain the Quad Cities’ integrated transportation system, a competitive advantage that allows people and goods to move quickly and affordably by road, rail, air, water, and transit.”
In 2005, the I-74 Bridge became the most traveled bridge in the Quad Cities with an average of 77,800 vehicles crossing daily. This is despite the fact that it was built for 48,000 such crossings. The Bridge itself is functionally obsolete, however, and has never met Interstate standards. The I-74 Bridge project would also spur economic growth, create construction jobs, reduce traffic backups, and improve air quality.