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LaHood: Peoria needs a plan to secure dollars from federal infrastructure bill

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Tri-County Regional Planning Commission
Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood speaks Thursday, April 28, to an audience assembled for a public input session on transportation planning hosted by the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission at the Scottish Rite Theater.

The greater Peoria region has a unique chance to land real funding for some dream infrastructure projects.

"It's a once in a lifetime chance. There's no question about it. Our country has never had a trillion dollars in transportation money," said Ray LaHood, the former U.S. Transportation Secretary and 18th District congressman.

But it'll take a good plan to secure that money.

"Those communities that have their act together, that have a plan together, that have an agreement on what their priorities are, will benefit mightily," he said.

In Peoria, that includes Mayor Rita Ali's pitch for a Peoria-to-Chicago passenger rail route. The Illinois Department of Transportation is currently conducting a feasibility study on the route due out later this spring.

This isn't the first time Peoria has toyed with the restoration of passenger rail service, but LaHood said there's a big difference with this proposal.

"I think there is an opportunity because of one reason and one reason only: there's an enormous amount of money thanks to President Biden's plan for rail in Washington now."

The $1 trillion in the bipartisan infrastructure bill will be doled out over the next five years.

The Tri-County Regional Planning Commission held a strategic planning session last Thursday at the Scottish Rite Theatre in downtown Peoria as regional officials assemble a list of infrastructure priorities for the area.

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