This weekend, Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff was in Illinois' Twin Cities to visit two projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Now, I’ve seen a lot of ink lately devoted to criticizing the stimulus, but you simply can’t deny that the Recovery Act is creating jobs and preserving other jobs that would have been lost without it. Those jobs are real, and you can bet those workers' families are happy to have them.
On Saturday in Normal, Administrator Rogoff signed a $22 million TIGER grant and helped break ground for the new Multimodal Transportation Center. Construction of the center will create nearly 300 sorely needed jobs, generate $86 million in economic activity for the community, and encourage business expansion in Normal for years to come.
It is exactly the kind of project President Obama had in mind when he signed the Recovery Act.
The center will serve transit buses, inter-city buses, taxis, and airport shuttles. It will offer park-and-ride options and pedestrian and bicycle connections to downtown Normal and Illinois State University. It will also house a passenger train station, replacing an older Amtrak station and positioning Bloomington-Normal for high-speed rail access on the Chicago-St. Louis route.
And all of this is in Normal's central business district, so you can imagine the growth it will stimulate as businesses gravitate to the convenience of the center's many transportation options.
As Amtrak Board Chairman Thomas Carper said at Saturday's ceremony, "As a former mayor, I know stations are engines of economic growth."
But, in addition to stimulating economic development, the Multimodal Transportation Center will also foster a more livable community. As Thomas Carper pointed out, studies show that 81% of American families preferred living near transit access. That's why this project is such an important part of the Uptown Normal redevelopment effort.
And if you need proof of the shovel-readiness of the center, the Bloomington Pantagraph reports that test pilings have already been completed and work on the actual pilings begins today.
On Friday in nearby Bloomington, Administrator Rogoff toured the new Bloomington-Normal Public Transit System Terminal.
This 75,000 square foot, $8.5 million facility is nearing completion thanks in part to $2.5 million in Recovery Act money. It doubles the bus storage capacity of the current facility to 48 40-foot buses and features expanded maintenance space to keep those buses in a state of good repair.
Officials touring the new site rode to it by bus from the old site. And US Rep. Debbie Halvorson and Administrator Rogoff noticed the difference. Congresswoman Halvorson said, "When you are at the other site and come here, you can't help but see how impressive it is."
Administrator Rogoff noted that far-sightedness of the new terminal: "Some facilities are at capacity the day they open; the plan here is more insightful."
He also observed that 36% of Bloomington-Normal transit riders are area college students."Those students," he said, "leave and relocate, but they will have learned the lesson that transit can work."
These two projects demonstrate not only that transit can work, but that it does work. And--through the construction work it requires and the growth it attracts--transit creates the jobs this economy needs.