Less than nine months from the expiration of the current surface transportation bill, MAP-21, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Bill Shuster (R-PA) held a hearing on Tuesday to begin discussions on a reauthorization measure.
"MAP-21 expires at the end of September. My hope is to get reauthorization done on time. In order to do that, the committee's work is ramping up. Today, we are formally kicking off our reauthorization process with this hearing," Shuster said in his opening statement. "The next bill must ensure that our surface transportation system can continue to support the U.S. economy and provide Americans with a good quality of life. This bill is about providing a strong physical platform for U.S. companies to compete at home and abroad. It's about making sure that Americans don't waste countless hours sitting in traffic away from their families and friends. It's about making sure that we can purchase the goods and services that we've come to rely on in our daily lives."
Shuster's purpose for the hearing was to gain insight from transportation industry stakeholders on what they were looking for in the next transportation bill. The committee heard from several witnesses: Oklahoma Governor and National Governors Association (NGA) Chair Mary Fallin, Caterpillar Inc. Group President Stuart Levenick, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Mayors), and Amalgamated Transit Union International President Lawrence Hanley.
Gov. Fallin, who served on the House T&I Committee as Representative from Oklahoma's 5th congressional district, said NGA had several priorities for MAP-21 reauthorization: funding and finance (allowing all options on the table); certainty and stability (maintaining reliable, long-term funding certainty); program reforms (supporting core program preservation, but recognizing the need for reform, support funding, and flexibility); project delivery (streamlining it); mobility needs (supporting a strong federal role in funding "equitable transportation solutions" for metro and rural areas); system performance (standing with clear, measurable, and fair measurements); and safety and security (improving safety, protecting the environment, and ensuring security across all systems).
"States need federal funding stability and certainty to pursue long-term planning and project delivery. Governors also support state flexibility to make investments in infrastructure projects through existing and new self-sustaining financing mechanisms to help mitigate public funding shortfalls," Fallin said. "All funding options must be on the table for ongoing evaluation because existing revenue sources are no longer adequate to support the various federal trust funds that help finance surface transportation and infrastructure."
Levenick strongly agreed with Fallin's call for a long-term bill.
"A long-term bill is critical because it will provide states, contractors and others the certainty they need to promote large capital projects, and the necessary capital to support them," Levenick said. He also commented on the need to invest more. "Despite the positive provisions included in MAP-21, the simple fact is this—our infrastructure is falling apart and our economy is falling behind as a result... If we are to continue to grow our economy, we need improvements in our infrastructure so that we can export and compete more efficiently and effectively."
Additional information, including a video of the full hearing and written testimony from all witnesses, is available here. See a Transportation TV News Update on this hearing at TransportationTV.org.