Sens. Boxer and Inhofe release outline for bipartisan transportation reauthorization bill
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member, on July 19 released an outline for Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), a bipartisan proposal to reauthorize the nation’s transportation programs for two years.
The proposal maintains funding at the current levels, includes significant reforms to make the nation’s transportation programs more streamlined and efficient, and provides robust assistance for transportation projects under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program to leverage state, local and private-sector funding.
According to a written press statement released from the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works, the senators said the following about this much-debated proposed legislation.
Sen. Boxer said: “We have worked together to develop MAP-21, which is a bipartisan proposal that modernizes and reforms our current transportation systems to help create jobs, jumpstart our economy, and build the foundation for long-term prosperity. 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. We will continue to work to move the transportation bill through the EPW Committee and the full Senate.”
Sen. Inhofe said: “Today [July 19] I am pleased join Senator Boxer to announce that we have completed bipartisan negotiations on the highway policies that will be included in the next transportation bill. This is a tremendous step forward. Chairman Boxer has shown her willingness to work with us to produce a bill that should enjoy strong bipartisan support. Our next step is crucial: given the state of our economy, and the debate here in Congress, we must work with Chairman Baucus and Republicans on the Finance Committee to find a way to pay for this bill. 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.”
The current surface transportation bill extension expires on Sept. 30, and many groups, ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the AFL-CIO, have called for immediate action to reauthorize the nation’s transportation programs. The Senate’s approach is a clear rejection of the 34 percent cut in funding proposed by the House, which would result in 630,000 jobs in highways and transit being lost in 2012.
Specific highlights from key areas of the proposal include the following:
MAP-21 authorizes Federal-aid highway programs for two years while maintaining current spending levels. The goal of the Committee remains attaining the optimum achievable authorization depending on the resources available and in a way that does not increase the deficit and can achieve bipartisan support. In addition, MAP-21 eliminates earmarks.
MAP-21 continues to provide the majority of Federal resources to the states through core programs using funding formulas. However, the core highway programs have been consolidated from seven in SAFETEA-LU to five, as follows:
• The National Highway Performance Program
o Consolidates the Interstate Maintenance program, the National Highway System program, and part of the Highway Bridge Program into a single program that focuses on the most critical 222,000 miles of roads in the nation.
o Provides states with increased flexibility in their use of funds if they adequately maintain the condition of their Interstate system and bridges.
• The Transportation Mobility Program
o Consolidates several existing programs to provide funds to states for projects on all Federal-aid highways and all bridges and tunnels.
o Provides for the sub-allocation of some funds to metropolitan areas and to other areas of the State based on population.
• National Freight Program
o Provides formula funds to states for projects to improve the movement of freight on highways, including freight intermodal connectors.
• Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program
o Provides funds to states for projects and programs in air quality nonattainment and maintenance areas for ozone, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter, which reduce transportation related emissions.
o Consolidates several existing programs to provide resources for additional transportation eligibilities.
• Highway Safety Improvement Program
o Provides funds to states for infrastructure improvements on all public roads to achieve a significant reduction in traffic fatalities and serious injuries.
o Improves data collection and analysis to allow states to more accurately focus funding on the most dangerous roads.
MAP-21 consolidates 87 programs under SAFETEA-LU to less than 30 programs. The activities for which dedicated funding has been removed have been consolidated into the very broad core programs, leaving states with the flexibility to fund these activities as they see fit.
America Fast Forward
MAP-21 builds upon the success of the TIFIA program to help communities leverage their transportation resources through federal credit assistance. The TIFIA program provides direct loans, loan guarantees, and lines of credit to large and nationally or regionally significant transportation projects with a revenue stream at terms that are more favorable than those available in the private sector and that will leverage private and other non-federal investment in transportation improvements. MAP-21 increases the funding for the TIFIA program from $122 million per year to $1 billion per year. Other modifications include: increasing the maximum share of project costs from 33 percent to 49 percent; allowing TIFIA loans to be used to support a program of projects, and allowing upfront commitments of future TIFIA program dollars through the use of master credit agreements. In addition, MAP-21 sets aside $100 million per year for projects in smaller cities and rural areas under lower interest rates. The Federal Highway Administration has stated that historically every Federal dollar spent through the TIFIA program can mobilize up to $30 in transportation investments.
MAP-21 focuses the highway program on key outcomes, such as reducing fatalities, improving bridges, fixing roads, and reducing congestion, in order to ensure that taxpayers are receiving the most for their money. States will set their own targets for improving safety, road and bridge condition, congestion, and freight movement.
Accelerated Project Delivery
MAP-21 includes several provisions designed to reduce project delivery time and costs while protecting the environment. Examples of improvements include: expanding the use of innovative contracting methods; creating dispute resolution procedures; allowing for early right-of-way acquisitions; reducing bureaucratic hurdles for projects with no significant environmental impact; encouraging early coordination between relevant agencies to avoid delays later in the review process; and providing incentives for accelerating project delivery decisions within specified deadlines.
MAP-21 improves the Statewide and metropolitan planning processes to incorporate a more comprehensive performance-based approach to decision making. Utilizing performance targets will assist states and metropolitan areas in targeting limited resources on projects that will most improve the condition and performance of highways and bridges.
• Federal Lands and Tribal Transportation Programs
o Provides funding for highway projects on Federal lands, tribal reservations, and roads that provide access to Federal lands.
o Agencies receiving funding include the National Park Service, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Land Management, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Fish and Wildlife Service.
• Research and Education
o Funds research and development, technology deployment, and training and education activities to further innovation in highway and bridge construction and preservation.
o Streamlines existing research programs to focus funding on key national research areas.