Business Leaders for Transportation Hosts Forum with Rep. Jackson - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Business Leaders for Transportation Hosts Forum with Rep. Jackson

One of a Series; Discusses Transportation Issues Vital to Area Businesses

Recognizing that the business community is uniquely qualified to influence federal transportation policy, Business Leaders for Transportation is hosting a series of forums that bring together members of the Illinois congressional delegation and their area business leaders to rally around key changes to the distribution formula, and identify transportation investment priorities.

Today’s breakfast in South Holland featured U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Chicago). The event was co-sponsored by CenterPoint Properties, Chicago Southland Chamber of Commerce, CSX Transportation, Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association, MI-JACK Products, Southwest Conference of Mayors, South Suburban Mayors & Managers, Transportation for Illinois Coalition, and United Transportation Union-Illinois Legislative Board.

“I campaigned for office on a pledge to make the South Side and south suburbs look like the North Side and northwest suburbs,” said Rep. Jackson. “We still have a long way to go, and the size of the chunk of money that comes to Illinois in the reauthorization of TEA-21 will determine whether and how we can move ahead.”

The facts about northeastern Illinois transportation network are startling. The region has the second largest transit network and third largest interstate network in the nation, is the third busiest intermodal hub in the world, and is the fifth most congested in the country — leaving local commuters to waste an average of 61 hours a year just sitting in traffic. Businesses, which represent individual and commercial transportation users, have a particular interest in how Illinois fares under TEA-3, the next federal bill.

“Rep. Jackson is known for his responsiveness to his constituents’ concerns, especially about transportation,” said Mike Schoelfield, chairman of the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corporation, director of marketing for Baxter and Woodman, and forum moderator. “This forum offers business leaders the opportunity to raise their specific concerns. Freight traffic, for example, really tangles things up in the south suburbs, and wasn’t addressed at all in the previous transportation bill.”

“We’ve identified southeast commuter rail service as a priority and are looking at land use and financing options,” said South Holland President Don DeGraff. “We’re doing everything possible to be competitive for the federal pot of transportation dollars.”

“Perhaps no one understands as well as the business community does how important a good transportation network is to business and the local economy,” said Jack Lanigan, chairman of the board, MI-JACK Products, an intermodal product manufacturer based in Hazel Crest, Ill. “That’s why we should be involved at the state and federal level to make sure planned transportation investments makes sense.”

Frank Beal, executive director of Chicago Metropolis 2020, which co-leads Business Leaders for Transportation with the Metropolitan Planning Council and Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, outlined the coalition’s recommendations for TEA-3. “Business Leaders for Transportation strongly believes that the federal government needs to return to a needs-based funding formula, and provide the necessary resources for a better connected, intermodal system for northeastern Illinois. An informed and active business community is key to ensuring that Illinois’ transportation needs are met.”

This fall, Business Leaders for Transportation is hosting a series of the forums around the region, including ones in mid-December with Reps. Henry Hyde (R-Addison) and Judy Biggert (R-Clarendon Hills).

Business Leaders for Transportation, a coalition of nearly 180 members representing more than 12,000 regional employers, provides a collective voice for Chicago-area businesses on surface transportation issues. Of central importance to the coalition is increased state and federal transportation funding for northeastern Illinois, supported by coordinated planning to achieve the most efficient and desirable return on transportation system investments.

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