Senators agree to agree on highway bill

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | Tuesday, April 15, 2014

An actual highway bill is not a reality yet, but Senate transportation leaders say they have agreed to some basic principles for it. First and foremost, they want a long-term bill that would provide certainty to states and agencies that receive federal transportation funding. They also want to keep the formulas and reforms established in 2012.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sen. David Vitter, R-La., ranking member of the committee, announced Thursday, April 10, that they’d agreed to a handful of basic terms in getting a highway bill on the table.

Joining them were Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., and Sen. John Barrasso, R.Wyo., the respective chairman and ranking member of the EPW Committee’s Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee.

Boxer said they’re hopeful they can get their committee’s portion of the highway bill drafted before the Highway Trust Fund goes broke.

“The reason the four of us are standing here is to send a strong signal to this country that we, as leaders of this committee, have worked across party lines to act before the Highway Trust Fund cannot pay its bills,” Boxer stated.

“For those of you who follow this issue, you know that the Highway Trust Fund is expected to run out of money later this summer, which would be devastating to thousands of businesses and millions of workers across the country.”

The EPW Committee has jurisdiction over highway funding.

Other Senate committees will be weighing in on the highway bill as well.

Important to truckers’ concerns, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has jurisdiction over the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and will draft portions related to safety and technology.

The Senate Finance Committee will debate ways to fund the bill overall. Funding remains the largest hurdle as the bill progresses, especially since many lawmakers have already ruled out a possible increase in federal fuel taxes – the main source of road and bridge funding.

The current highway bill – MAP-21, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, which was approved in 2012 – is set to expire on Sept. 30 of this year.

House leaders are also working on their respective draft of the bill.

Not to be ignored in the equation is the November 2014 federal election that puts 435 seats in the House and 33 seats in the Senate up for grabs.

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