March 14, 2012

UPDATED: Senate authorization bill passes 74-22

Update: Original story has been updated to include statements from Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and APTA President/CEO Michael Melaniphy.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a bipartisan show of support, the Senate passed its two-year, $109 million transportation authorization bill by a vote of 74 to 22, according to the AP.

The Senate's vote steps up pressure on the House to drop its troubled five-year bill and instead adapt the Senate version before the current extension expires March 31. For the full story, click here.

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Transportation for America Director James Corless issued the following statement in response to the Senate's adoption of MAP-21:

"The Senate today has done the nation a great service in overcoming partisan gridlock to help Americans avoid literal gridlock. On behalf of Transportation for America, I want to express our gratitude to the many senators on both sides of the aisle who listened to each other and to the American public in crafting a bill that makes important policy strides even as it maintains funding levels necessary to preserve and expand our transportation infrastructure.

MAP-21 makes several key reforms:

  • For the first time, establishes national policy goals and performance measures for the federal surface transportation program, such as addressing congestion, improving access to multiple travel options, supporting domestic manufacturing, and reducing impacts on the environment and adjacent communities.
  • Consolidates programs and streamlines project delivery, while maintaining existing funding levels.
  • Holds states accountable for the safe upkeep of our roads and bridges.
  • Maintains local control over a share of funds and ensures access funding for safer walking and bicycling.
  • Includes emergency provisions to allow transit agencies to avoid service cuts and fare hikes.
  • Extends the commuter benefit for transit users, commensurate with parking benefits for drivers.
  • Helps communities make plans to meet the growing demand for walkable neighborhoods with access to jobs, services and public transportation.
  • Ensures that federal funds streets that are safe and complete for everyone who uses them, whether motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, wheelchair users or transit riders.

While there are still additional reforms that could improve the overall program, we have to commend the Senate for doing its part, and in so doing has created a road map for transportation policy that can win bipartisan support. Now the House must act in similar fashion to ensure that this critical federal program does not lapse, even as the spring construction season begins. By following the Senate's lead, House leaders can craft a bill that serves all Americans and put the federal program on a solid footing once again."

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood commented:

"Today's passage of the Senate transportation bill shows what Congress is capable of when they work together in a bipartisan manner. Thanks to the leadership of Senators Boxer and Inhofe, working with their colleagues from the Banking, Commerce and Finance Committees, states are one step closer to putting Americans to work rebuilding our roads, bridges, transit systems and railways. Like President Obama's transportation proposal, this bill would relieve congestion on our roads, expand our transit and rails systems, and provide Americans with safe, affordable ways to reach their destinations when gas prices are high.  I hope that the House will follow their lead in passing a bipartisan transportation bill."

In addition, American Public Transportation Association (APTA) President/CEO released the following statement:

“On behalf of the 1,500 members of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and the tens of millions of Americans who ride public transit every day, I congratulate the U.S. Senate for passing S. 1813 — the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21 Act) — with a resounding bipartisan vote of 74-22. This bill funds both public transportation and highways and extends the dedicated motor fuels taxes that support these transportation programs.

I would like to recognize the following Senators for working in a bi-partisan manner to move this bill through the Senate. They are Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), James M. Inhofe (R-OK), Max Baucus (D-MT), Orin Hatch (R-UT), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX).

Passage of this transportation legislation is important not only to the tens of millions of public transit riders, but to the economic health of this country. Investing in public transportation creates jobs and also gives people access to jobs. Every $1 billion invested in public transportation creates and supports 36,000 jobs. Nearly 60 percent of trips on public transit are taken for work commutes.

Ridership on public transportation in 2011 was 10.4 billion trips — the second highest since 1957. With gas prices continuing to rise even higher than in 2011, it is vital that our country’s public transportation systems have the necessary investment to meet current and growing public demand.

Now we look forward to working with the House of Representatives on its transportation bill. With the extension deadline of March 31 looming, there is still much work to be done in the coming weeks.”

METRO Magazine will continue to cover authorization bill developments as they happen.

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