Oberstar to unveil highway bill ‘blueprint’ Thursday

| Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The chairman of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee says the next transportation authorization bill will transform the federal role in investment, safety and transit.

U.S. Rep. James Oberstar, D-MN, is scheduled to release a blueprint of the authorization bill on Thursday, June 18. The authorization, which happens every few years, is sometimes referred to as a reauthorization bill or simply as the “highway bill.”

The current law, known as SAFETEA-LU, has been in effect since August 2005 and is set to expire on Sept. 30 of this year.

Highway users, especially truckers, are paying close attention to the bill as it will come at an influential time in transportation history.

During the SAFETEA-LU era, the Bush administration and two previous transportation secretaries, Norman Mineta and Mary Peters, scaled back on the federal role in highway funding and incentivized road tolling, congestion pricing and public-private partnerships.

Oberstar is poised to introduce the new bill under the Democratic Obama administration and new Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

While Oberstar remains optimistic about bringing the bill forward for a possible vote this summer, committees in the Senate are not moving as quickly on their version of the authorization.

For a bill of that magnitude to pass, both the House and Senate must approve their respective versions and then come to a consensus on a final version before the bill is sent to the president’s desk for signature.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has been the voice of the truck driver since 1973. The Association continues to call upon its membership to take action on legislative issues. As the highway bill unfolds, the Association asks that everyone be ready to pick up the phone because the future of transportation will be at stake.

– By David Tanner, staff writer