Monday, November 07, 2011

Bipartisan Senate Transportation Funding Bill Released

Nov 7: Following last weeks defeat in the Senate of the President's $60 billion infrastructure bill (S.1769, the Rebuild America Jobs Act) and the defeat of the Republican alternative bill (S.1786, the Long-Term Surface Transportation Extension Act) [See WIMS 11/4/11]; a bipartisan group of Senators has released the bill text for -- Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) -- legislation to reauthorize the nation's transportation programs for two years. The Senators include: Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee; James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the EPW Committee; Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), Chairman of the EPW Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee; and Senator David Vitter (R-LA), Ranking Member of the EPW Subcommittee.
    Senator Boxer said, "I am proud to be Chairman of a committee that has joined together across party lines to write a strong, job-creating transportation bill. I believe that our bill will not only protect the 1.8 million existing transportation jobs, but we will also create up to an additional million jobs thanks to the way our bill leverages federal funds. My deepest thanks to my Ranking Member, Senator Jim Inhofe, the Subcommittee Chair, Senator Max Baucus and Subcommittee Ranking Member, Senator David Vitter."
    Senator Inhofe said, "I commend Senators Boxer, Vitter and Baucus for their work in striking the right balance on our highway bill, and I am pleased to join them as we unveil it today. Yesterday's votes on both the Democrat and Republican infrastructure bills showed that there is a strong bipartisan majority in the Senate that supports putting Americans back to work by building our roads and bridges. I look forward to working with my EPW colleagues to pass this bill -- which is proven to help strengthen our economy and create jobs -- in the committee next week."
    Senator Baucus said, "Maintaining a strong transportation system is a proven way to create jobs and keep America strong and competitive, something we need now more than ever. Because Montana is a highway state, we know firsthand that the smart transportation investments in this bill will deliver big returns in construction jobs in the short term and they will support American commerce around the country and around the world for years to come. This is a bipartisan package everyone can support."
    Senator Vitter said, "I'm encouraged that we've found an efficient way of addressing some of our most important transportation needs.  The American people -- and many American businesses -- depend on reliable infrastructure, and I'm glad that we were able to find some common ground with this bipartisan bill."
    According to a release, the legislation maintains funding at current levels, reforms the nation's transportation programs to make them more efficient, and provides robust assistance for transportation projects under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program to leverage state, local, and private-sector funding. The bill will be marked up in the EPW Committee on November 9 at 10:00 AM ET. The current surface transportation bill expires on March 31, and many groups, ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the AFL-CIO, have called for immediate action to reauthorize the nation's transportation programs.
    In a summary of the legislation the Senators identify key highlights of the bill as follows:

  •  Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) reauthorizes the Federal-aid highway program at the Congressional Budget Office's baseline level—equal to current funding levels plus inflation—for two fiscal years.
  • MAP-21 consolidates the number of Federal programs by two-thirds, from about 90 programs down to less than 30, to focus resources on key national goals and reduce duplicative programs.
  • Eliminates earmarks.
  • Expedites project delivery while protecting the environment.
  • Creates a new title called "America Fast Forward," which strengthens the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Program (TIFIA) program to leverage federal dollars further than they have been stretched before.
  • Consolidates certain programs into a focused freight program to improve the movement of goods.
    The bill would establish three new core programs as follows:
  • National Highway Performance Program This section consolidates existing programs (the Interstate Maintenance, National Highway System, and Highway Bridge programs) to create a single new program, which will provide increased flexibility, while guiding state and local investments to maintain and improve the conditions and performance of the National Highway System (NHS). This program will eliminate the barriers between existing programs that limit states' flexibility to address the most vital needs for highways and bridges and holds states accountable for improving outcomes and using tax dollars efficiently.
  • Transportation Mobility Program This program replaces the current Surface Transportation Program, but retains the same structure, goals and flexibility to allow states and metropolitan areas to invest in the projects that fit their unique needs and priorities. It also gives a broad eligibility of surface transportation projects that can be constructed. Activities that previously received dedicated funding in SAFETEA-LU, but are being consolidated under MAP-21, will be retained as eligible activities under the Transportation Mobility Program.
  • National Freight Network Program Our nation's economic health depends on a transportation system that provides for reliable and timely goods movements. Unfortunately, the condition and capacity of the highway system has failed to keep up with the growth in freight movement and is hampering the ability of businesses to efficiently transport goods due to congestion. MAP-21 addresses the need to improve goods movement by consolidating existing programs into a new focused freight program that provides funds to the states by formula for projects to improve regional and national freight movements on highways, including freight intermodal connectors.
    Access a release from the Senators (click here). Access a 4-page bill summary (click here). Access the complete 600-page draft bill (click here). [#Transport]

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