On the 56th anniversary of the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956 becoming law, the U.S. House and Senate voted to pass a $101 billion transportation bill that sets policy and funding levels for the next two years.
The bill, HR4348, authorizes the Highway Trust Fund and its programs for fiscal years 2013 and 2014. HR4348 is also being referred to as MAP-21, or “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century.” The bill originated in the Senate.
House and Senate lawmakers took different paths but ended up with the same result on Friday – 56 years to the day that President Dwight Eisenhower signed the interstate bill into law. It now goes to President Obama’s desk, and he is expected to sign it.
The legislation contracts $50.15 billion for highway authority in 2013 and $50.84 billion in 2014, for a total of $101 billion.
In addition to funding highways, bridges and transit, the bill includes motor carrier safety and other policies. Click here for a primer on trucking-specific provisions that made it into the bill.
MAP-21 replaces the previous authorization bill known as SAFETEA-LU, which became law in 2005. Since SAFETEA-LU expired in September 2009, Congress approved nine temporary extensions to avoid possible shutdowns of transportation programs.
Lawmakers said the new highway bill will provide certainty and jobs in addition to the funding and policy changes. One of the key features that lawmakers agreed upon speeds up the delivery of transportation projects by cutting red tape.
The historic week in modern transportation came to a close with a 373-52 vote in favor of MAP-21 in the House and a favorable 74-19 vote in the Senate.
Incidentally, all “nay” votes in the House came from Republicans, some of whom said during debate that they were shut out of seeing final language of the bill when it was being drafted by a conference committee of House and Senate lawmakers.
The bulk of the bill is being credited to Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, who chaired the joint negotiating committee, along with colleagues Sen. James Inhofe, R-OK, and others on Senate committees with jurisdiction over transportation.
House participants in the negotiating committee were led by Rep. John Mica, R-FL, and Rep. Nick Rahall, D-WV. Both made statements during debate that the vast majority of the bill came from the Senate.