Senate version of highway bill in the works

| 5/25/2011

The leaders of two Senate committees say they're on the verge of introducing a bill to authorize a new long-term surface transportation program. They say it will fund transportation at current levels, eliminate earmarks, expedite projects, and stretch federal dollars further.

Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, and James Inhofe, R-OK, who lead the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, along with Sens. Max Baucus, D-MT, and David Vitter, R-LA, who lead the EPW’s Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, announced their working draft of the legislation on Wednesday, May 25.

The senators have dubbed it the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or MAP-21.

“It is no secret that the four of us represent very different political views, but we have found common ground in the belief that building highways, bridges, and transportation systems is an important responsibility of the federal government, in cooperation with state and local governments and the private sector,” the senators said in a joint statement.

To this point, the senators have only provided a one-page overview. It says their plan is to consolidate programs and reduce wasteful spending, but they want to maintain infrastructure funding at current levels.

OOIDA is waiting for more details about the bill to emerge to see how it would affect truckers.

“Truckers are glad to see progress being made on long-term surface transportation legislation,” said OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Ryan Bowley.

So far, the Senate version is likely to differ from a recent draft “bill” leaked from the White House because the senators want to preserve the Highway Trust Fund. The White House version calls for the Highway Trust Fund to be dismantled and replaced by a general transportation trust to include other modes such as rail and public transit.

So far, the senators have not announced a funding mechanism for their version of the bill, nor have they given an indication about how many years it would last. By comparison, the White House draft calls for six years of transportation funding at an estimated $550 billion.

U.S. House lawmakers continue to work on drafting their version of a bill.

See related story:
Obama releases ‘draft’ of highway bill