Senators call for two-year transportation bill

| Wednesday, July 20, 2011

As expected, members of the U.S. Senate have countered a proposal in the House by calling for a two-year surface transportation authorization bill that would maintain current funding levels. The House version unveiled earlier this month calls for six years of transportation funding and cuts federal spending to meet budget demands.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-CA, and ranking Republican James Inhofe of Oklahoma announced Tuesday, July 19, that they have completed bipartisan negotiations on a two-year plan dubbed MAP-21, or Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century.

It’s not an official bill yet, but it’s getting close. Same thing goes with the House version.

Both proposals aim to consolidate Department of Transportation programs, speed up project delivery, and call for more private-sector involvement in infrastructure.

“This bill is an investment in America’s future, because the nation’s aging infrastructure has not kept up with needed improvements, and now our transportation systems are falling behind other countries,” Boxer said in a statement.

Inhofe, one of the most conservative senators on Capitol Hill, says transportation is no place to skimp despite the budget woes the government is facing.

“I am confident that if we continue to work together, as we have thus far, we can get the job done. Doing so is vital for jobs, the economy and our nation’s infrastructure,” he stated.

A number of other committees, including ones that will determine where the money will come from, will have a say in the transportation bill.

OOIDA is urging lawmakers to protect and preserve the Highway Trust Fund from being raided for non-highway programs. Aside from that, the Association is waiting for formal bill language to be announced to see what the proposals hold for motor carrier safety, electronic on-board recorders, cross-border trucking, freight corridors, railways, ports and other items of interest to the men and women who move America’s freight.

“There are some good proposals about bringing the highway program back to basics and making better use of funds by improving project delivery, much like the House bill,” said OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Ryan Bowley in reaction to the Senate announcement.

“The devil, as always, is in the details, but it is good to see both the House and Senate taking steps forward on a highway bill. It is important that the Highway Trust Fund be protected as the process moves forward.”

Recent related stories:
Transportation bills ready for center stage
GOP transportation bill cuts spending, Dems on the offensive