Coalition: Do not devolve highway program to states

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | 3/17/2015

OOIDA and 37 other groups representing a variety of transportation interests are urging Congress to reject the idea of devolving federal highway funding responsibility to the states.

A so-called “devolution” bill dubbed the Transportation Empowerment Act has surfaced again on Capitol Hill as it did in the previous Congress. It calls for $45 billion in federal transportation funding to be reduced to just $8 billion a year. It calls for states to pick up the rest of the tab, if they wish to do so.

The result could be disastrous for the U.S. system of highways according to the state highway officials, road builders, contractors, truckers, carriers, manufacturers, motor coach groups and even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who went on record with a letter to Congress on Monday, March 16.

“TEA is an ill-conceived proposal that would strip away most federal funding for surface transportation projects, essentially eliminating the federal government’s constitutionally mandated role in promoting interstate commerce,” the coalition letter stated.

“As previously introduced last Congress, and soundly defeated in the Senate on July 29, 2014, TEA would have reduced funding for the federal-aid highway program by more than 80 percent by 2019 … with no consideration of the impact on state and local governments or private industry,” the group wrote.

Congress faces a deadline of May 31 for passing at least a temporary extension to current highway funding programs. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing on Tuesday to continue to discuss the future of highway funding.

Lawmakers have been floating their ideas for short-term and longer-term proposals to keep highway, transportation and safety programs operating.

“Devolution proposals are not a solution to the long-term infrastructure funding question, but rather serve as a distraction from the debate about how best to fully fund our nation’s infrastructure,” the coalition wrote. “We urge you to oppose devolution of the surface transportation program and refrain from co-sponsoring TEA or similarly misguided legislation in the 114th Congress.”

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