The conference report, approved on June 29, 2012, provides $105 billion for the nation's surface transportation programs, and it continues the current level of funding plus inflation through FY2014. It is estimated to save and create nearly three million jobs per year, consolidates programs from 90 to about 30, and eliminates earmarks. As a procedural matter, the President signed H.R.6064, the Temporary Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, which provided funding for programs funded from the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) for the period June 30, 2012, through July 6, 2012. The following is a summary of the reforms in the transportation bill conference report. The summary was released by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and James Inhofe (R-OK) who sponsored the Senate version of the MAP-21 transportation bill.
- America Fast Forward - To address the nation's massive investment needs, the conference report builds upon the success of the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program to help communities leverage their limited transportation resources and stretch federal dollars further than they have been stretched before.
- Freight Movement - The conference report establishes a National Freight Policy, directs the Secretary of Transportation to develop a National Freight Strategic Plan to identify the most critical freight routes so investments can be made to improve freight movement, and provides incentives to states to develop freight plans and invest highway funding to address freight movement.
- Projects of National and Regional Significance - The conference report includes authorized funding for a Projects of National and Regional Significance Program that can fund all modes of transportation projects, including highways, transit, freight and passenger rail, and intermodal projects.
- Performance measures - The conference report provides accountability for how tax dollars are spent on transportation projects and focuses on key national priorities, such as reducing fatalities, improving road and bridge conditions, reducing congestion, increasing system reliability, and improving freight movement and economic vitality.
- Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) - The conference report maintains the CMAQ program, which helps to improve air quality and provide congestion relief.
- Surface Transportation Program - The conference report maintains the existing Surface Transportation Program and provides funding comparable to current law to be sub-allocated to metropolitan areas. It also expands eligible activities in order to provide flexibility to fund activities from programs that have been consolidated.
- Transportation Alternatives - The conference report continues to dedicate funding for bike paths and pedestrian walkways and sends half of the funds directly to local entities, while giving states more flexibility on their share. The funds may be used for similar activities that were eligible in MAP-21, including the traditional transportation enhancement activities with slightly modified eligibilities, recreational trails program, and the safe routes to school program.
- Accelerating Project Delivery - The conference report maintains the vast majority of project acceleration provisions in MAP-21. It also includes new provisions that will maintain substantive environment and public health protections and enhances efficiency and accountability in the project delivery process. The conference report rejected provisions contained in the House bill that would have harmed important health and environmental safeguards.
- RESTORE ACT - The conference report includes a provision (the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourism Opportunities and Revived Economy of the Gulf Coast Act of 2012 ) that provides a significant investment to help restore the long-term health of the ecosystems and economy along the Gulf Coast, which sustained tremendous damage due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010. The RESTORE Act is a bipartisan, regional approach that dedicates 80 percent of Clean Water Act penalties paid by responsible parties for the restoration of the Gulf Coast environment and economies and provides needed resources to Gulf Coast states to start immediate recovery.
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