Funding from a 2015 bill is running out, but Rep. Lauren Underwood and a bipartisan group of members are trying to stop that.
Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.), along with a bipartisan group of 108 members, sent a letter on Nov. 14 to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, urging them to remove a provision in a federal law, known as the FAST Act, that would take away $7.6 billion in federal highway funding next year.
President Obama signed the FAST Act into law in 2015. It was the first bill in more than a decade to provide long-term funding for infrastructure planning and investment, and it authorized $305 billion in spending between 2016 through 2020. But as that time frame expires, $7.6 billion dollars dedicated to improving highways and roads nationwide could be revoked.
“The federal funding included in the FAST Act is essential to helping Illinois and states across the country prepare, plan, and execute long-term projects to make our highways and communities safer,” Underwood said in a statement about her letter to House leaders.
For now, a temporary government funding bill that passed the House and Senate in September has repealed the scheduled loss of highway funding.
Like the rest of America, Illinois could benefit from additional funding and infrastructure investment.
“In addition to mass transit, we need better roads,” Underwood said at a hearing before the House Transportation Committee in May. “I was in McCollum Lake last week and saw first hand how bad the conditions of the roads affect safety and the economy, and, unfortunately, McCollum Lake Road is just one of the many roads in my district that need critical repairs.”
She also noted that for different areas of the country, infrastructure needs will vary. For some, she explained, it means road improvements but for others it means better access to the internet or mass transit options.
If the unobligated funds from the FAST Act had been revoked “across the board, states will lose precious dollars needed for investment in infrastructure projects,” Underwood wrote in her letter to House leadership.
Over the last 20 years, America’s infrastructure system has been in decline, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) Infrastructure Report Cards.
In recent years, much of America’s infrastructure has gone from poor to worse. For instance, American roads were given a C+ in 1988 but in the time since then they have deteriorated. By 2017 roads were given a D which indicates that much of the infrastructure is in poor condition and there is a serious concern it could fail.
Infrastructure systems are given letter grades depending on how well they meet designated criteria. Grades are determined by benchmarks like capacity, operation and maintenance, public safety and funding among others.