House committee sets priorities for next highway bill

| 4/9/2009

The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has laid down some ground rules for lawmakers who intend to submit project considerations to be incorporated into the next surface transportation authorization bill.

T&I Committee members and other lawmakers on Capitol Hill are currently drafting the next surface transportation bill, sometimes called the highway bill, to replace the current legislation known as SAFETEA-LU, which expires in September.

“This legislation will transform our surface transportation programs by strengthening the current federal-state-local partnership, ensuring that programs meet specific performance-based metrics, and providing for greater transparency and accountability for federal, state and local decision-making,” stated T&I leadership – including Committee Chairman James Oberstar, D-MN, and ranking Republican John Mica of Florida – in a letter sent to key lawmakers.

Oberstar and Mica said the new legislation will focus on performance and accountability. When submitting projects and ideas for consideration in their home districts, lawmakers are to follow specific criteria and meet priority guidelines outlined by the committee.

One thing is for sure: Oberstar and Mica do not want to see earmarks for non-highway related projects.

“Note: The Committee will not accept requests for non-surface transportation projects, such as transportation museums, horse trails, or historic battlefields, as part of the High Priority Projects program,” Oberstar and Mica stated.

The committee has planned a hearing for April 28 to discuss project requests from lawmakers.

– By David Tanner, staff writer