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      U.S. Secretary of Transportation hopes to see increased safety and improved highways

      U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood wants to "Invest in an America built to last."

      That was the topic of a presentation he gave Monday at Western Illinois University as part of the Robert and Mary Ferguson Lecture series.

      The former congressman wants to crack down on texting and driving even more and improve the nation's roads and highways.

      Secretary LaHood called distracted driving an epidemic while answering questions after his presentation.

      "We know that 3,000 people were killed as a result of distracted driving last year, and the way to correct that is the same way that we corrected drunk driving and the same way that we now have 86% of people bucking up - good laws and good enforcement," said LaHood.

      Since the start of national campaigns discouraging texting and driving, the number of states that passed legislation restricting cell phone use in cars have doubled.

      "We're going to continue to work with states that want to pass good laws. We think that's a good solution. But a national law has also proven that that can be effective too. So we're going to work with Congress on Legislation that can have the same impact," said LaHood.

      He also hopes to see a two year, $109 billion transportation bill signed into law.

      "Since the House loaded up its bill with the Keystone Pipeline and coal ash and things of that nature and things that have nothing to do with transportation, the conference committee of House members and Senate members should take the bill and pass it as the conference report. The president will sign that ," commented LaHood.

      He says that, if passed, the bill could begin to fund the Macomb bypass.

      The Senate's version of the transportation bill passed with 74 votes.

      LaHood also noted that $2 billion of the $10 billion spent nationally on high speed rail has been in Illinois.