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February 2008 Newsletter

Mass Transit Update

At long last, I am pleased to report to you that the mass transit crisis in the Chicagoland region is behind us.  A sustainable, long term funding source has been enacted so that Metra, Pace and the CTA can stop planning for cuts and start moving forward (literally!).

The House and the Senate recently voted to accept the Governor’s Amendatory Veto of the legislation we previously adopted.  That action is final so the bill now becomes law.  A small addition to the sales tax will go into effect that allows the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) to fund all operations at their existing level.  There are also significant reforms for the CTA pension and health care systems that will save millions of dollars going forward.

I’m sure you know by now that in addition, the House took action with regard to the Governor’s proposal to provide free rides for all seniors.  In a separate piece of legislation, we approved a change to his proposal which requires Metra, Pace, and the CTA to provide free rides to seniors AND the disabled only if their annual income is below a certain threshold.  Currently, that threshold is approximately $29,000 for a 2-person household.  The Senate did not immediately take action on this but there is still the possibility that they will do so in the near future.

General Assembly Scholarships

I am pleased to announce the General Assembly Scholarship applications are now available for those high school and college students who are permanent residents of the 57th district.   The scholarships are offered will cover one year of tuition at the following state universities:  University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign, Chicago & Springfield), Chicago State University, Eastern Illinois University, Governors State University, Illinois State University, Northern Illinois University, Northeastern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University, and Western Illinois University.

The deadline for applications is Friday, April 18, 2008. Each scholarship will be awarded to students enrolled in undergraduate, graduate or professional curriculums. A volunteer Scholarship Committee representing the 57th District community will evaluate applications and award all scholarships.  Applications are available at my website: or by calling my district office at (847) 257-0450.

The CN Purchase of the EJ&E Railroads

Anyone who lives in Des Plaines or has ever tried to drive through Des Plaines is painfully aware that rail linescriss cross the City.  It is almost impossible to drive in Des Plaines without encountering a train.

One of the major lines that traverses several northwest suburban Cook County communities, including Mount Prospect and Des Plaines, is owned by the Canadian National Railway (CN).  Recently, the CN has announced that it is seeking to purchase another line that runs on the outskirts of the Chicago metropolitan region – the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway (EJ&E).  The CN wants to take train traffic off its existing line and move much of it to the EJ&E.  This could, for the short term, dramatically reduce train traffic through Des Plaines and Mount Prospect.  There is, however, a more regional perspective to this potential acquisition that is important.  The Chicago region is the world’s fifth largest intermodal freight hub (we used to be third not that long ago).  The movement of freight is a huge engine in our regional economy.  But our rail and truck traffic is so congested that it is reaching a breaking point.

While there are numerous questions still to be answered about the impact of the CN/EJ&E purchase, the regional economic impact cannot be lost in the fight over whether individual communities are positively or negatively impacted.  As Chair of the House Rail Committee, I am watching this transaction very closely and participating in the federal government hearings that will ultimately determine whether the transaction moves ahead.


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