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Representative Darin LaHood

Representing the 18th District of Illinois

Bipartisanship keeps Springfield on track

December 18, 2018

In today’s political climate, it’s not often we hear of bipartisan work coming out of Washington, D.C. However, right here in Springfield, a major transportation project recently received yet another significant federal grant thanks to the buy-in from federal, state and local officials on both sides of the aisle to help clear another major hurdle toward improving travel and safety within our state’s capital.

Last week, the Springfield Rail Improvements Project was awarded its third federal grant in recent years when U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced a $22 million Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant to begin work on Usable Segment IV of the rail project.

Earning one federal grant of this measure alone is difficult. Earning two? A giant feat. But three? That’s nearly unprecedented.

Receiving these awards doesn’t come with just one person carrying the torch to victory, it takes leaders from all levels of government, and it requires reaching across the aisle for the greater good of our community.

Up and down the different levels of government, once again it took a team effort to help secure the significant award to tackle Segment IV to allow for more effective and efficient travel through the Fifth and Sixth street corridors.

I was pleased to join my U.S. House colleague, Congressman Rodney Davis, to advocate on behalf of Springfield and highlight the city’s strategic planning and strong case for federal dollars towards this project. We coordinated outreach to the Trump Administration and co-authored multiple letters of support. Rep. Davis even hosted the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Administrator Ronald Batory at the rail corridor, providing an opportunity for him to meet with local stakeholders and see the benefits and importance of the project firsthand.

Our Senate counterparts, Springfield native Senator Dick Durbin, with a history of support for the project, and Senator Tammy Duckworth also deserve credit for their hard work to bring home this award for Springfield. They have been helpful in providing influence from the Senate Chamber and advocating to Secretary Chao.

Furthermore, this project would not have stood out from all the other worthy grant applicants without the vision and leadership of our local government. Both Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder and Sangamon County Board Chairman Andy Van Meter have led the charge locally to organize the efforts to represent our community. Through their leadership, they garnered bipartisan support across the city and county, while working hand-in-hand with local stakeholders, including Hanson Professional Services, the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Illinois Commerce Commission and, of course, state and federal administrators.

Lastly, from President Trump’s administration, this feat would not have been accomplished without the work of Secretary Chao and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Behind this collaborated effort, the $22 million for Usable Segment IV will drastically improve rail travel through our state’s capital. It will also improve the flow of vehicle traffic, providing further opportunity to more fully develop Springfield’s medical district. With improved traffic flow, the city will enhance public safety, traffic congestion, community livability, and bolster commercial development efforts downtown as two new overhead rail bridges will be constructed at Fifth and Sixth streets. And as a result, this will allow planning for the Madison and Jefferson streets underpasses to move ahead.

Typically, many hands make for light work, but in this case, I feel many hands carried the various heavy responsibilities to bring home the third federal grant allowing Springfield to press forth with this significant rail improvement project.

In today’s political environment, it can be difficult to find bipartisan work happening in our country, but with last week’s announcement, it should be clear that not one individual nor one political party brought this grant award home. It took the efforts and leadership from many individuals from all political parties and all levels of government to keep this project on track. This should be an example for our state and country.