U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says the Senate version of a new transportation bill is needed to drive large-scale projects like the Macomb bypass to completion.
He said, ”(It's) a bi-partisan bill, paid-for bill and we begin to move the country forward. And we give certainty to transportation. Communities like Macomb know that there is a transportation program that could begin to help fund the Macomb bypass, if that bill passes.”
The Senate bill is a two-year bill that would provide $109 billion in funding.
LaHood was critical of the House version for removing EPA regulation of coal ash (a byproduct of burning coal) and for approving construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas. The bill is also a short-term bill that would expire at the end of September.
A conference committee will meet next week to resolve differences in the two bills.
LaHood also sees a “bright future” for passenger rail service. He said during his tenure as his department has invested $10 billion in high-speed rail with $2 billion of that invested in Illinois. He said high-speed rail is too expensive to provide without partnerships between Amtrak and the freight companies that own the rails.
LaHood said many parts of the county currently do without any passenger rail service.
He said, “Our goal is to connect 80% of the country over the next 25 years with good passenger rail (service).”
The secretary is also championing a ban on cell phone use by drivers. He says distracted driving led to 3,000 fatalities in the United States last year. LaHood drews parallels with earlier efforts to curb drunk driving and increase seat belt use. He said they became effective when they were backed up with serious enforcement.
While LaHood has proposed a federal ban on cell phone use behind the wheel, he is willing to work with states to craft laws to accomplish that..
LaHood spoke at Western Illinois University in Macomb.