June 29, 2012

Congress approves 2-year transportation bill

Congress officially approved a two-year transportation bill, as part of a broader package that included resolution of other long-simmering issues, including student loans and federal flood insurance.

The package passed the House 373 to 52 and the Senate 74 to 19, with one member voting present, according to the Washington Post. Under the agreement, federal transportation funding will continue at roughly $54 billion a year, with public transportation funds set at $8.36 billion in FY2012, $8.47 billion in FY 2013 and $8.595 billion in FY 2014.

“This bill will provide a major boost to our economy by putting Americans back to work building our nation’s bridges and highways,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica. Mica led the House conferees in reaching agreement with the Senate on the final transportation policy and reform bill.

As reported earlier, the bill does not include a provision launching construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline that was sought by Republicans. It also omits a $1.4 billion for conservation that Democrats favored and dropped restrictions on how states use money once mandated for aesthetic transportation improvements.

Other highlights of the approved bill, which is yet to be signed by President Barack Obama include:

  • Provisions to accelerate project delivery.
  • An expansion of the TIFIA loan program to $1 billion per year.
  • The consolidation of the Elderly and Disabled and New Freedom program, which will increase the amount of available funds.
  • Reforming and streamlining of the New Starts program.

“The average highway project in the United States takes 15 years from concept to completion, far more than any other developed nation,” said U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. (R-TN), chairman of the House Highways and Transit Subcommittee. “We have got to cut the red tape and speed up these projects. This bill goes further in streamlining environmental rules and regulations than any previous highway bill.”

METRO Magazine will have more on the bill in our August issue.

Below is a statement from American Public Transportation Association President/CEO Michael Melaniphy:

“On behalf of the 1,500 members of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), we commend the Conferees on the surface transportation bill for reaching a successful agreement. The bill maintains funding for public transportation through September 2014. This authorization period will provide public transit agencies and the business community with a greater degree of certainty than they have had since the expiration of SAFETEA-LU. We urge Congress to approve the agreement and the President to sign this bill into law, because investing in public transit is essential to creating American jobs and boosting our economy.

This proposal demonstrates that Congress and the Administration understand the important role public transportation plays in getting people to work and putting people to work. The agreement reflects a balance of the public transportation needs in both urban and rural areas. It includes improvements to keep our systems in a state of good repair; streamlines delivery of public transit projects; provides funding for new start projects and for a bus replacement and a bus facility program. 

We believe this new law will create American jobs and help the United States remain economically competitive.”    

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