State transportation department executives were briefed on the measure Thursday evening by House T&I Committee staff during a conference call organized by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation officials. Two draft bill summaries circulating on Capitol Hill this week indicate the House measure will include many provisions that state DOTs have long called for.
"We are encouraged to hear that the House will propose a long-term bill that will maintain existing funding levels. This will provide important long-term certainty to state DOTs," said AASHTO Executive Director John Horsley. "We are hopeful that reforms beneficial to state DOTs are included in the legislation such as offering maximum flexibility in using federal highway and transit grants, consolidating programs, accelerating project delivery, and providing innovative finance solutions."
To streamline the transportation project approval process, the House's reauthorization bill "will delegate more authority to states, establish hard deadlines for federal agencies to make decisions, and cut the amount of federal red tape currently involved in getting projects built," House T&I Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Florida, wrote in The Hill on Tuesday. "Cutting this cumbersome review process time in half while still ensuring the proper environmental protections will allow improvements to move forward with much greater efficiency."
Mica wrote that "states will be given more flexibility to determine their greatest transportation needs and priorities, with fewer mandates coming from bureaucrats in Washington. Less federal bureaucracy will translate into less waste, and this will help increase the value of available resources."
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Washington state, today announced that his panel will hold a markup Wednesday that will include the energy portion of the American Energy Infrastructure & Jobs Act. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced in November that royalties from expanded domestic oil and natural-gas production would help provide new revenue for the Highway Trust Fund. (see Nov. 18 AASHTO Journal story)
"Expanding access to America's abundant offshore and onshore energy resources will create millions of new American jobs, lower energy prices, and generate new revenue to help pay for infrastructure improvements," Hastings said in a statement. "When new energy resources are developed, we'll need updated infrastructure to bring it to market. This creates a link that will allow for both American energy jobs and American infrastructure jobs to be created simultaneously."
Media reports this week indicate the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over all revenue provisions in the reauthorization legislation, will hold a markup next Friday. That session has yet to be formally announced by the committee.
House Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcomittee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pennsylvania, told a Transportation Research Board seminar Wednesday that once all three committees approve their portions of the bill, they will be merged together and debated on the House floor the week of Feb. 13.
The Senate is considering a two-year, $109 billion highway and transit reauthorization bill, which cleared the Environment and Public Works Committee in November. (see Nov. 10 AASHTO Journal story) The Senate Finance Committee is expected to mark up the revenue provisions of that measure next week. (see related story)
Also this week, more than 1,000 organizations sent a letter to Congress urging prompt action on a highway and transit reauthorization bill, and the Americans for Transportation Mobility coalition announced it will launch an advertising campaign in February in support of such action. (see related story)