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AASHTO Journal

Transportation Bill Signed into Law

President Obama last Friday signed into law Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, known as MAP-21, a new $105 billion surface transportation bill that runs through the end of fiscal year 2014.

"I've been calling on Congress to take half the money we're no longer spending on war and use it to do some nation-building here at home," President Obama said. "There's work to be done building roads and bridges and wireless networks. There are hundreds of thousands of construction workers that are ready to do it... this is an outstanding piece of business."

State transportation departments had been operating on short-term extensions of the nation's last surface transportation bill, SAFETEA-LU, since September 30, 2009.

MAP-21 includes many of the reforms and recommendations states have sought over the last few years. Some of those that made the cut include:

  • The consolidation/streamlining of highway and transit programs. Roughly 60 programs were eliminated or consolidated so that more resources would be available to states directly.
  • The establishment of a National Freight Policy and National Freight Network.
  • The continuation of the Highway Research Program.
  • The expansion of availability for innovative finance mechanisms. TIFIA, for example, is expanded and enhanced in the bill by increasing the amount of a project's cost that can be funded with loans and guarantees to a maximum of 49 percent (up from the previous 33 percent). TIFIA also received more funding in the bill.
  • The expansion of the ability for states to utilize tolling while maintaining the same amount of free lanes.
  • The modernization of the Metropolitan and Statewide Planning Process by moving to a performance-based approach.
  • The enhancement of highway safety. The Highway Safety Improvement Program saw its funding doubled in the bill.
  • The modernization of transit programs. Funding levels stayed the same in the bill, with some slight adjustments for inflation in 2014.
  • The streamlining of environmental processes without compromising environmental protections.

The bill extends the Highway Trust Fund and tax collections through FY 2016, which is two years beyond the reauthorization period. However, the Trust Fund as estimated by the Congressional Budget Office will face a deficit beginning in fiscal year 2015. This adds funding stability to the states over the next two federal fiscal years. Almost $19 billion in general funds will be transferred to the Highway Trust Fund over the life of the bill with multiple offsets to cover the transfer of those funds.

Additional AASHTO analysis on provisions in the bill is available at bit.ly/AASHTOmap21. Several other organizations have compiled analysis on MAP-21 and many are available bit.ly/MAP21summaries.

The Federal Transit Administration released on Thursday a new web site to assist states in MAP-21 implementation and guidance, available at bit.ly/FTAmap21.

7/13/2012
Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.