Senate takes a crack at highway bill, too

By David Tanner, associate editor

Not to be outdone by their counterparts in the U.S. House, members of the Senate have also taken up work on a new surface transportation authorization bill.

While transportation falls mainly to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the House, the jurisdiction over transportation falls to a number of different committees on the Senate side.

One of those is the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, whose members brought forward a bill in February that looked an awful lot like a reauthorization bill.

The Federal Surface Transportation Policy and Planning Act of 2011, introduced by Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, and Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ, vows to create a “unified mission” for federal programs.

Highlights include reducing national vehicle miles traveled, carbon emissions and congestion while upgrading transportation assets, increasing miles traveled on passenger rail, and boosting multimodal freight options.

Another Senate body, the Environment and Public Works Committee, has also embarked on hearings to tackle surface transportation issues. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, who chairs the committee, was hosting a series of transportation hearings at press time along with ranking committee Republican James Inhofe of Oklahoma.

Boxer and Inhofe have issued joint statements urging Congress to turn its attention to surface transportation as a way to create jobs and upgrade the nation’s aging infrastructure.

Before it’s all done with, the House and Senate must agree on language before a comprehensive transportation bill is passed and sent to President Obama for his signature.

OOIDA is poised to be an important part of the dialogue by ensuring that truckers have a voice in provisions that affect them, such as tolling, fuel taxes, safety and technology. LL