Senate committee advances highway bill proposal

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 5/15/2014

As expected, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted Thursday, May 15, to approve its own draft of a multiyear highway bill. The committee vote was unanimous and steered clear of a proposal by the White House to open the door to tolling on interstate highways.

The Senate EPW Committee’s draft of the highway bill calls for six years of policy and funding at current levels adjusted to inflation. That translates to about $50 billion per year.

OOIDA supports a multiyear approach to the highway bill while also rejecting the notion that interstates be converted into toll roads.

“We commend the committee for writing a bipartisan bill and especially for rejecting the Administration’s proposal to expand tolling on our nation’s Interstate Highway System,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer.

“We look forward to working with both the Senate and House transportation committees in addressing the challenges faced by the Highway Trust Fund and ensuring that the priorities of professional and small-business truckers are included in the final bill.”

At this stage, the Senate EPW version does not include a funding mechanism, nor does it include a plan for motor carrier safety programs.

The Senate Finance Committee will be in charge of the funding mechanism while motor carrier safety falls to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

OOIDA is monitoring progress on both of those fronts in an effort to protect the interests of truckers.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx continues to urge Congress to act on the White House version, a four-year, $302 billion proposal.

Although the Senate version has rejected interstate tolling, it does agree with the White House on continuing to pursue reforms that began in the 2012 highway bill, MAP-21, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century. MAP-21 is scheduled to expire on Sept. 30.

The Senate EPW has named its new bill the MAP-21 Reauthorization Act.

Two items of note that could affect the progress of the highway bill: The House of Representatives has yet to offer and debate its version, while many members of Congress are preparing their run-up to the November elections. This year, 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 33 seats in the Senate are up for grabs.

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