Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Senate Approves Transportation Reauthorization Bill 74-22

Mar 14: With the current transportation authorization set to expire on March 31, 2012, the full Senate has now approved S.1813, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), a two-year $109 billion surface transportation bill, which maintains funding at current levels. The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Committee, was approved unanimously in Committee last November  [See WIMS 11/10/11] and was approved for consideration on the Senate Floor on February 9 [See WIMS 2/8/12], and has been awaiting action until last week when it was agreed that only 30 amendments would be considered. A number of non-germane and controversial amendments have been considered over the last several days. After all of the amendment were considered, the main bill passed by a vote of 74-22. The bill now goes to the House for consideration where more non-germane amendments are likely to be proposed.
    The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Chairman John (Jay) Rockefeller IV (D-WV) issued a statement after the Senate passed S.1813 and said, "We've seen a lot of good trends recently about the safety of our roads and highways as well as the growth of travel. Highway deaths are at their lowest since 1949. Deaths in crashes involving drunk drivers have dropped almost 5 percent. And American drivers traveled 46 billion more miles in 2010 than 2009. It's important that we keep fostering these trends with federal programs that keep the focus on making transportation safety and smart infrastructure growth top priorities.

    "This Senate surface transportation reauthorization will do just that.  It helps create a long-term roadmap for our surface transportation system. Among other things, it improves large truck and bus safety by making certain only the safest motor carriers and drivers are able to enter the industry. The bill tackles the distracted driving epidemic and modernizes the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to meet the challenges of modern automobiles. It increases the maximum civil penalty for hazardous materials transportation violations. It further builds upon the foundation Congress laid for a robust passenger rail system and makes smart rail safety improvements. And it establishes a much-needed, long-term vision for our federal surface transportation and freight networks to keep the flow of commerce running smoothly.

    "Now that the Senate has acted and we are quickly approaching expiration of these programs, I urge the House to move on this bill. Without well-supported, effective federal surface transportation programs, jobs are on the line, the economy is on the line, and the public's continued safety is on the line."

    According to a summary provided by Senator Rockefeller, The major surface transportation, safety, and freight provisions of this legislation would:

  • Improve and establish National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) grant programs to address long-standing and emerging driving issues, such as distracted and teenage driving; enhance NHTSA's enforcement authority and transparency; mandate lifesaving new child safety standards; and strengthen the agency's expertise in advanced technologies.
  • Modernize the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) approach to truck and bus safety by increasing the use of technology and data to drive enforcement efforts; ensure that only the safest truck and bus drivers are authorized to drive on our highways; improve the safety laws and regulations that govern drivers and vehicles that operate in the industry; and enhance FMCSA's authority to oversee the truck, bus, and household goods movers industries.
  • Establish a clear and unified mission for our federal surface transportation and freight networks, including a long-term vision for surface and freight transportation programs that the Secretary of Transportation will have to implement through a surface transportation and freight strategic plan; and provide more transparency and accountability to the federal surface transportation funding programs.
  • Build on existing rail programs at Amtrak and at the Federal Railroad Administration to further refine and streamline development of a robust intercity passenger rail system and take steps to address key rail safety concerns.
  • Enhance the Research and Innovative Technology Administration's (RITA) innovative planning and research capability; streamline RITA's current authority; improve RITA's ability to spur innovation in transportation research; and increase the safety and oversight of the hazardous materials being transported through our nation's transportation networks.
    House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) released a statement saying, "Today, Democratic and Republican Senators voted to create jobs, invest in road, rail, transit, and highway construction, rebuild our infrastructure, and strengthen our economy. Now, it is time for House Republicans to abandon their 'my way or the highway' agenda and send the bipartisan Senate bill to the President's desk before current law expires on March 31st. . . Put simply, the House Republican transportation bill is bad for jobs, bad for public safety, and bad for our economic growth. We must pursue a different path – the bipartisan path of enacting the Senate bill – to make the investments necessary to strengthen our economy and our middle class, create jobs, and rebuild America."
    Access a release from Senator Rockefeller (click here). Access the roll call vote on final passage (click here). Access a release from Rep. Pelosi (click here). Access a 4-page MAP-21 bill summary (click here). Access the complete 600-page draft MAP-21 bill (click here). Access legislative details for S.1813 (click here). [#Transport]
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