February 3, 2012
Surface Transportation Reauthorization <br>Moves Closer to Full Senate Consideration
The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee unanimously approved Thursday the Federal Public Transportation Act, a two-year transit reauthorization bill. Three of four Senate committees have now completed their work on the multiyear surface transportation reauthorization legislation, which could be called up on the floor as early as next week.
Sponsored by committee Chairman Tim Johnson, D-South Dakota, and ranking minority member Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, the bill reauthorizes federal transit programs at current funding levels of nearly $21 billion for two years. Other key provisions include requiring public transportation safety plans at transit agencies, creating a system to monitor public transportation assets to enhance their performance, streamlining the New Starts process for transit construction to speed up project delivery, and establishing a State of Good Repair program to help address the backlog of public transportation maintenance needs.
"This legislation is an investment in our nation's infrastructure, and ensures our public transportation systems have the resources they need to provide safe and reliable service to millions of American families and commuters," Johnson said in a statement. "This bill makes much-needed reforms, eliminates earmarks, and cuts through red tape to ensure transit programs are funded quickly and efficiently."
This two-year reauthorization bill for transit programs now moves to the full Senate for consideration, where it will be combined with the highway component approved in November by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (S 1813) as well as the traffic safety and research provisions approved in December by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee (see Dec. 16 AASHTO Journal story). The funding title has yet to be approved by the Senate Finance Committee. The current authorization extension expires March 31.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said Thursday he plans to move next week for the Senate to proceed to the surface transportation reauthorization package.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-California, and ranking minority member James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, issued a statement Thursday noting the outstanding progress being made toward bringing up reauthorization legislation on the floor.
"Surface transportation legislation is finally getting the attention it needs and deserves," Boxer said in the statement. "Congress must pass legislation that will rebuild the nation's crumbling infrastructure, boost the economy, and create jobs; and the only way to get the bill to the President's desk is through our bipartisan approach."
Inhofe noted the Senate and House bills moving through committees this week share common ground.
"The House and Senate bills both include unprecedented reforms of the existing highway program and are funded at very similar levels," Inhofe said in the statement. "The differences could be resolved in a bipartisan fashion during the House/Senate conference. The bottom line is that we need to pass a transportation bill as soon as possible so that we can get our economy moving again."
For details on House committee action this week, see related story.
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