February 12, 2003

WASHINGTON (Feb. 12)–U.S. Rep. William O. Lipinski (D-Ill.) last night was named Ranking Democratic member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Highways, Transit and Pipelines.

The term “Ranking” means that if the Democrats were to become the majority party in the House, Lipinski would likely become the subcommittee’s chairman. Although in the minority, a Ranking Member continues to have a high level of influence on the drafting and passage of transportation legislation..

Lipinski, who is in his third decade of representing a district carved from Chicago’s Southwest Side and several southwestern suburbs, has become a major figure in the financing of the nation’s transportation infrastructure projects. He is the senior Illinois member of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, serves as well on its Aviation and Railroad subcommittees and is widely respected on both sides of the aisle as a fair-minded transportation-infrastructure expert who can secure funding for needed projects.

“The election of Bill Lipinski by his fellow Democrats on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee is appropriate and merited,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo, who worked with Lipinski on the Transportation Transition Team of Gov.-Elect Rod Blagojevich. Lipinski served as chairman of the team’s Transportation Committee.

“He is probably the most experienced and skilled Member of the House of Representatives in identifying transportation-infrastructure needs and certainly the most effective Member in devising strategies for financing those needs,” Szabo said. “Cong. Lipinski has always shown an extraordinary skill in assembling coalitions of representatives from both parties and from all regions of the nation to get vital transportation facilities financed and built.”

Among Lipinski’s accomplishments for Illinois, Szabo said, were his securing of federal funding for the 1996 track and signal upgrades that allowed Chicago’s Metra to start up a new commuter rail service over the Wisconsin Central Railroad.

“Cong. Lipinski is in a key position to control the financing of all of the current and projected expansions and upgrades of the Metra commuter-rail system, including the purchasing of new railcars and locomotives that is just getting under way,” Szabo said. “His work is vital to Metra’s ability to capture more commuter traffic from the highway system. And his position on the Rail Subcommittee means he will be a critical player in all decisions regarding the freight-rail system and the development of intercity passenger rail capability in the future.”

Szabo said Lipinski’s analytical skills and consensus-building philosophy are two of the main reasons why Congress is likely to re-authorize the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century.

“The TEA-21 legislation contains $218 billion for surface transportation infrastructure improvements coast to coast–-highways, transit, bridges and tunnels, commuter stations, even bike paths,” Szabo said. “These are vital projects the nation needs to grow its economy and provide more business opportunities and jobs.”

Szabo noted that the UTU has always enjoyed a good relationship with Lipinski at both the state and national levels.

“Our union is particularly excited about Cong. Lipinski’s dedication to securing the federal component of a public-private funding partnership to unplug the bottlenecks in Chicago’s complex and obsolete network of freight-railroad tracks,” Szabo said.

“As those new infrastructure improvements are funded and built, freight cars that now take 48 hours or more to work their way across Chicago will leave town after less than a day of classification,” he said.

“As freight moves faster, more and more freight will be switched to rail and more and more industries will locate production and distribution facilities adjacent to rail lines in Illinois and nationwide. Bill Lipinski’s election as Ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee couldn’t have come at a better time.”