The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on March 26 making technical corrections to the SAFETEA-LU surface transportation law passed in August 2005, which extends the deadline and adds money for the national surface transportation revenue study panel, increases funding for research and authorizes high-priority projects in a number of states.
Technical amendments to the Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act Technical Corrections Act (H.R. 1195) must now be considered by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and then the full body. The House bill is very similar to the technical corrections bill approved twice by the House during the second session of the 109th Congress, but that legislation was not acted upon by the Senate.
Among other provisions, H.R. 1195 extends the work of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission from July 1 to December 31 of this year. The bill also boosts funding for the commission from $1.4 million to $3.4 million for Fiscal Year (FY) 2007.
House members also supported an amendment that would support funding for the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) research activities. When SAFETEA-LU was enacted, the entire research program under Title V was earmarked, leaving no funding available for such research as the production of the biennial Conditions and Performance Report. The technical corrections bill would restore funding for the FHWA research efforts by shifting the Future Strategic Highway Research Program II authorizations from the research and development account where they were flatlined at $51 million a year to a takedown from the core highway programs not to exceed 0.205 per year. This correction increasing funding for F-SHRP II was endorsed by AASHTO.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, said, "If we are going to maintain and improve our nation's transportation infrastructure, we need to understand its status, its condition and its need for future investment as we move toward yet another transportation bill in the coming Congress."
More than 200 changes to high-priority projects contained in Section No. 1702 of the $286.5 billion SAFETEA-LU (Public Law No. 109-59) are included in the technical corrections bill. The bill rescinds $117 million in unobligated contract authority for FY 2009 in order to offset the new projects it includes.
University Transportation Center program funding was flatlined at $69.7 million each year from FY 2005-2009. Funding in the technical corrections bill is now set at $40.4 million in FY 2005; $69.7 for FY 2006; $76.4 million in each of FY 2007 and 2008; and $78.9 million in FY 2009.
Funding for magnetic levitation transportation research is set at $20 million for FY 2007 and $35 million each for FY 2008 and 2009.
Changes to a host of specified transit projects approved in SAFETEA-LU were included in H.R. 1195. The bill also includes a modification to the Repeat Intoxicated Driver Law to allow for the use of ignition interlock devices, which will give states more flexibility to either continue with the current one-year license suspension, or a suspension of 45 days after which driving privileges are restored, provided the interlock devices are installed.