House transportation bill cuts Illinois, Amtrak

Illinois officials say the state stands to lose $900 million in federal funding for highways if a Republican-led transportation bill passes in the House this week.

The changes could also jeopardize critical long-term investment needed to maintain Chicago's transit system, the second largest in the nation.

Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider says the bill would put mass transit in a difficult position by moving its source of funding from the federal gasoline tax to a far less predictable general fund vulnerable to cuts.

Schneider joined federal transportation officials at an event in Chicago Tuesday to drum up the interest of railroad manufacturers and suppliers in helping build high-speed rail and other projects.

They say the bill in Congress could make their sales pitch tougher.

The bill also eliminates locally popular federal programs that help underwrite bike lanes and pedestrian safety projects, including the Safe Routes to School program, to concentrate funding on highways. And it includes a reduction in funding for Amtrak totaling $308 million over two years.

"The House bill takes us back to the dark ages," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told reporters in Washington on Monday.

KHQA has placed calls to U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Peoria), U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and former Macomb Mayor Tom Carper, chairman of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation Board of Directors.