House Panel Unveils Highway Proposal


By Oliver B. Patton, Washington Editor

The starting point for reauthorization of the federal highway law in the House is a six-year vision – not a bill yet – of a dramatically smaller program that seeks to leverage federal funds by giving states more flexibility.

At a briefing on Capitol Hill yesterday, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., unveiled the outlines of a $230 billion measure that relies solely on the money that’s available through the Highway Trust Fund. This would amount to a 20% cut from the $287 billion bill now in effect.

The measure would consolidate or eliminate many Department of Transportation programs and includes reforms intended to speed up the delivery of infrastructure projects. It would keep the truck and bus safety program basically as is, and Mica said he wants a guarantee from the Ways and Means Committee that funding for the program will be preserved.

The TI Committee has a long tradition of bipartisanship, but this was a partisan presentation. There were no Democratic representatives in the hearing room. They gathered afterward, in another room, to castigate the majority for excluding them from the drafting of the bill so far and describe the measure as “the Republican road to ruin” because of the funding cuts it proposes.

Mica said he expects to hold a hearing July 12 on the measure but does not know when the legislative language will be ready or when the bill will be introduced.

In the Senate

Meanwhile, messages from the Senate are mixed. After initially considering a six-year bill at $339 billion, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Environment Public Works Committee, is now talking about a 2-year, $109 billion bill. And Sen. John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, issued a statement criticizing the House proposal for cutting too much.

“At a time when our national transportation system is heading toward a crisis, short-sighted Republican proposals that would recklessly underfund important infrastructure projects just don’t make sense,” Rockefeller said. “I’m fully prepared to discuss spending cuts, but we can’t do it without additional revenues, too, and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise.”

Mica said that when it comes to funding his hands are tied, citing a House rule instituted by the Republican leadership that limits highway money to what is available from the trust fund. His argument is that since a fuel tax increase is off the table – neither the House nor the White House supports an increase – the program must survive on the revenues that are coming in. To do otherwise would run the trust fund into the red, he said.

His alternative is to make adjustments in existing programs to leverage the money that’s available, and to attract private sector investment. The proposal would, for example, expand the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation loan program. It also would let states toll new Interstate roads and give them more flexibility to toll non-Interstate roads, but it would not permit tolling on existing Interstates.

No National Infrastructure Bank

In a significant departure from what has been discussed at length by the transportation community and the Obama administration, the proposal calls for giving states incentives to start their own infrastructure banks, rather than create a national infrastructure bank.

The proposal lays out a restructured project delivery process designed to speed up approvals so projects can be done more quickly.

“I maintain that this has an incredible amount of value,” Mica said.

His calculation is that the combination of loan leveraging, state infrastructure banks, encouragement of private investment and streamlining of the construction process will boost the value of the bill from about $35 billion a year to $75 billion a year.

The proposal so far contains no specific language on freight policy, an issue that the freight community has been pushing for some time. Mica did say that he intends to ask the Ways Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over funding, for tax credits and other incentives for freight but he did not spell out details.

He also said he still is considering whether or not to include any changes in truck size and weight restrictions in the bill. Legislation that would mandate electronic onboard recorders also is under consideration, he said.

Transportation Reactions

Reaction from the transportation community varied.

“I am stunned,” said Leslie Blakey of the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors, which represents more than 60 public and private organizations that want improvements in freight transportation. “There is no special program here for freight. It says nothing about multi-state, multimodal cooperation.”

John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials focused on the positives. The proposal, he said, is the first step in process to get a long-term bill, and it includes many reforms that state departments of transportation support, such as consolidation of federal transportation programs, accelerated project delivery and tools to leverage transportation funds.

“We continue to have concerns about the proposed funding levels included in the bill, but we also realize that this is the start of a process that will include not only the House, but also the Senate and the Administration,” Horsley said in a statement.

American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves applauded the committee’s effort and the six-year term of the bill.

“Like other highway interests, ATA would like to see a more robust bill, but we believe the current funding constraints are forcing an important re-focusing of the surface transportation program on core programs in the national interest,” Graves said in a statement.

ATA supports the proposal’s ban on tolling existing Interstates and is pleased by Mica’s intent to preserve funding for safety, Graves added. The association also likes the committee’s policy of no earmarks, eliminating requirements on states to fund non-highway activities and the move to consolidate DOT programs.

Printer Friendly Version
Email This Story
RSS
Bookmark and Share

Highways: Related News

7/8/2011 – House Panel Unveils Highway Proposal


The starting point for reauthorization of the federal highway law in the House is a six-year vision – not a bill yet – of a dramatically smaller program that seeks to leverage federal funds by giving states more flexibility.

At a briefing on Capitol Hill yesterday, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., unveiled the outlines of a $230 billion measure that relies solely on the money that’s available through the Highway Trust Fund. This would amount to a 20% cut from the $287 billion bill now in effect….
More

7/5/2011 – Arkansas Highway Funding Plan Thrown into Reverse by Anti-Tax Fervor

If you’ve been wondering why Congress has not been able to reauthorize the federal highway program, take a look at what’s happened in Arkansas. There the anti-tax fervor that currently reigns on Capitol Hill has been taken to an instructive extreme….
More

7/5/2011 – Buffalo’s Peace Bridge to Get Canadian Pre-Screening

The Peace Bridge port of entry spans the Niagara River between Buffalo, N.Y, and Fort Erie, Ontario. It’s the fourth busiest border crossing in North America, and congestion on the U.S.-bound lanes caused by truck screening is legendary. That problem could soon be solved. …
More

7/1/2011 – Possible Government Shutdown Causes Minnesota Rest Areas to Close

Truckers in Minnesota may need to find new pit stops this weekend as rest areas shu tdown in the face of a government shutdown….
More

6/30/2011 – L.A. Mayor Warns Drivers of Impending Freeway Closure on I-405

Both north- and south-bound lanes for Interstate 405 in Los Angeles will be closed for just over two days straight next month, which may cause nightmarish road conditions for drivers.

…
More

6/29/2011 – DOT Sending Emergency Highway Funds to North Dakota

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced he is making $5 million in quick release emergency funds available to the North Dakota Department of Transportation to immediately begin restoring federal-aid highways damaged by flooding….
More

6/24/2011 – Reauthorization? Maybe Next Month

Congress is inching toward legislation to reauthorize the federal highway program, but details are scarce and the schedule remains a “maybe.”

“We may move forward in July,” said Justin Harclerode, spokesman for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee….
More

6/23/2011 – Increases Proposed for Maryland Toll Facilities

The Maryland Transportation Authority proposed a toll increase to help manage rising infrastructure costs, which would double the toll on some Interstate highway bridges by mid-2013. …
More

6/17/2011 – Some Trucks to be Temporarily Banned from U.S. 93 in Boulder City During Construction

After compromising with Arizona and federal government officials, the Nevada Department of Transportation announced plans to temporarily ban some trucks from U.S. 93 in Boulder City….
More

6/15/2011 – Floods Close I-29 South of Iowa 2

Missouri River flooding prompted the Iowa and Missouri departments of transportation this afternoon to officially closed Interstate 29 from exit 10 (Iowa 2) in Iowa to the U.S. 136 interchange (exit 110) near Rock Port, Mo….
More

6/15/2011 – Maryland Rehabilitates Two Bridges on I-270

The Maryland State Highway Administration is rehabilitating two bridges on northbound and southbound I-270 over MD 80 (Fingerboard Road) and Bennett Creek in Frederick County….
More

6/13/2011 – Iowa DOT closing I-29/680 interchange near Loveland at 6 p.m. Today; Additional Closures Soon Due to Flooding

The Iowa Department of Transportation will be closing the Interstate 29/680 interchange near Loveland at 6 p.m. today due to flooding….
More

6/9/2011 – Toronto Traffic Fowled by Four-truck Pile Up

Commuters in the Toronto area had to endure a four-hour, mid-day closure of the westbound Queen Elizabeth Highway after an SUV driver made a panic stop in the center lane of the roadway to avoid hitting a duck….
More

6/6/2011 – FHWA Makes Hurricane Season Modeling Tool For Freight Movement

States will have greater access this season to a Federal Highway Administration’s modeling tool that can help them prepare for freight traffic shifts resulting from major road closures after natural disasters….
More

6/3/2011 – More Truck Parking Available, Under Construction In Missouri

Rest areas in Mineola, Mo., are being converted to a truck-only parking facility, and two welcome centers have opened along I-55 offering additional parking….
More

6/2/2011 – Section of Westbound I-86 Closed in Western New York After Shoulder Collapse

A section of I-86 (aka the Southern Tier Expressway) in western New York will be shut down for most of the summer after heavy rains caused part of the road’s shoulder to collapse….
More

6/2/2011 – San Francisco Trucks’ Toll Hike Waiver Expires in 30 Days

The Bay Area Toll Authority reminds drivers of vehicles or combinations with more than two axles that their one-year exemption from the 2010 toll increase on the region’s toll bridges will expire at the end of this month….
More

JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER
I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )
Join over 3.000 visitors who are receiving our newsletter and learn how to optimize your blog for search engines, find free traffic, and monetize your website.
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.