SPECIAL REPORT: Obama releases 'draft' of highway bill

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 4/29/2011

Friday, April 29, 2011 – President Obama today released a partial draft of his vision for a six-year surface transportation authorization bill. While not complete, the document sheds important light on the administration’s vision for highways and bridges, motor carrier and driver enforcement, technology, safety, tolling, funding, railways, energy, emissions and other issues.

The administration has dubbed it the Transportation Opportunities Act, and a draft has been circulated to select transportation groups.

OOIDA leadership and media are poring over the document and will inform the membership about the details as they emerge. A number of the provisions contain few details at this time.

In general, the Obama administration’s proposal aims to streamline Department of Transportation programs and speed up the delivery times for major infrastructure projects. It focuses heavily on a strong highway network, livable communities, a national infrastructure bank to leverage money for projects of national significance, and opportunities for multi-modal freight movement.

Provisions focusing on motor carrier and driver regulation as well as proposed enforcement and penalties are included in title only at this point.

The draft document released Friday is not a “bill” at this time, as it has not been introduced by members of Congress.

Congressional committees have been working on their own drafts of a transportation bill of late, but their drafts have not yet been made public.

Members of the House and Senate are scheduled to return to Capitol Hill on Monday, May 2, following a two-week break, and could dive right in or hold off on discussing the administration’s proposal. Several committees have held hearings in recent months on surface transportation, so the feeling is that things are beginning to culminate toward some kind of bill.

No transportation bill of this magnitude will become law without a healthy dose of congressional debate and public comment.

In addition to the core provisions of a long-term transportation bill, OOIDA also plans to track a host of separate provisions that could eventually become amendments to the larger bill. Those issues include such things as safe truck parking, a cross-border program, electronic on-board recorders and truck size and weight.

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