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AASHTO Journal

Senate EPW Committee Unanimously <br>Approves 2-Year Highway Reauthorization
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, in a unanimous 18-0 vote this morning, approved a two-year reauthorization of federal highway programs at current funding levels. The bill now moves to the Senate floor calendar, where it will wait for three other committees to approve funding, transit, and safety components that will eventually be merged into one piece of legislation.

John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, commended the committee for supporting the principle that existing levels of highway investment should be preserved.

"We particularly appreciate the unanimous, bipartisan vote to move the bill forward," Horsley said. "We agree with the objectives outlined in the MAP-21 legislation to help ensure accountability and stewardship of federal surface transportation investments, improve the efficiency of the regulatory review process for transportation improvements, and leverage private-sector resources through an expanded TIFIA program."

Floor consideration of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, S 1813, now depends on the Senate Finance Committee finding $12 billion in offsets to supplement projected Highway Trust Fund revenue. The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee must pass the transit section of the legislation. And the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee must approve safety provisions.

"After more than two years of short-term extensions and with an economy desperate for an immediate boost, action on this multiyear surface transportation reauthorization bill should occur as soon as possible," Horsley said. "We fully recognize that money alone will not deliver the transportation network our nation requires, and that is why we strongly support program reforms. We also believe that failing to supplement current Highway Trust Fund revenues would lead to a more than 30% cut in every state's federal highway and public transportation funds."

During today's 75-minute-long markup, the committee adopted en bloc 18 amendments that had been agreed to in advance by Senate EPW Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-California, and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma and the committee's ranking minority member. While several senators spoke about other amendments they had drafted that did not gain Boxer and Inhofe's approval, none requested a vote in deference to the leaders' request not to debate further modifications to the 600-page bill's language.

The last multiyear surface transportation authorization law, known as "SAFETEA-LU," expired in September 2009 and has been temporarily extended eight times by Congress. The current extension will lapse March 31.

"With so many jobs on the line -- perhaps as many as 600,000 jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation -- including the current funding levels plus inflation is a key step in starting to address our nation's surface transportation needs," Horsley said.

A four-page summary of the bill is available at 1.usa.gov/SEPWC4. The full text of the 600-page measure as introduced (not including the amendments approved today) is available at 1.usa.gov/SEPWC600.

11/9/2011
Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.