Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL) announced that House and Senate conferees are concluding a bicameral, bipartisan agreement on a major transportation bill. The measure focuses on unprecedented reforms by cutting red tape and consolidating federal transportation programs.
“This agreement will help strengthen our nation’s construction industry and provide stability to highway, bridge and infrastructure projects across the country,” said Mica.
The tentative agreement establishes federal highway, transit and highway safety policy and keeps programs at current funding levels through the end of fiscal year 2014. Unlike the last transportation bill, which contained over 6,300 earmarks, this bill doesn’t include any earmarks. This bill also does not increase taxes or include the controversial extension of the Keystone oil pipeline as previously reported.
“The unprecedented reforms in this legislation — cutting red tape, truly making projects ‘shovel ready,’ shrinking the size of the federal bureaucracy, attracting more private sector participation, and giving states more flexibility to address their critical priorities — will ensure that we more effectively move forward with major highway and bridge improvements and put Americans back to work,” Mica said. “The Highway Trust Fund is going bankrupt, and this paid-for measure provides necessary, real reform that focuses our limited resources on critical infrastructure needs.
If a majority of House and Senate conferees approve the conference report, both bodies are then expected to take up the measure before the end of the week, prior to the expiration of the current extension of transportation funding on June 30th.
Meanwhile, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, issued the following statement:
"I am so glad that House Republicans met Democrats half way, as Senate Republicans did months ago.
"The bill is funded at current levels, and it will protect and create three million jobs. This job creation is the critical focus of Democrats, because we know that the unemployment rate in construction is at an unacceptable level.
"We speed up project delivery, cut red tape, and do it without jeopardizing environmental laws. For the first time, we send half of the funds for bike paths and pedestrian walkways directly to local entities, and we protect those funds while giving states more flexibility on their share.
"Our country needs the kind of economic boost that this bill offers, and I am looking forward to getting it to the President's desk.
"It is ironic that in June 1956 the Senate passed its first highway bill, and thanks to the work of many committees and all parties, we will not allow that great history of our interstate transportation system to disappear."