American Highway Users Alliance President and CEO Greg Cohen praised Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure for releasing a new surface transportation authorization bill that will stabilize current levels of highway funding, allow for long-term planning, prioritize critical transportation priorities, eliminate earmarks, increase state flexibility, reduce federal mandates, consolidate and reduce the number of small programs, cut through bureaucratic red tape and fund critical research. The bill would establish annual funding levels for highway programs from $42.6 billion to $43.5 billion between 2013 and 2016.
The transportation titles will be incorporated into H.R. 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act. The Highway Users Alliance looks forward to reviewing the nontransportation titles as they become available.
The House bill is full of important reforms that are critical to reassuring taxpayers that federal-aid funding for highways is invested prudently and not wasted on earmarks, lost in Washington bureaucracy or mandated to diversionary programs. Passage of the bill would go a long way toward restoring public trust in Congressional transportation priorities and increase support for the stressed, inadequate federal user fee on highway fuels over the long term.
“We believe that reforms like those being proposed are critical to fuel taxpayers,” said Cohen. “Without such reforms, the public would remain skeptical about paying needed user fees to fund nationally needed highway programs and projects.”
In particular, the Highway Users strongly supports the priority given to life-saving safety improvements on all public roads and to the economically critical mobility investments on our 160,000-mile National Highway System, including the 46,000-mile Interstate Highway System. Cohen pointed out, “The boost in funding for safety projects is common in both the House and Senate bills and will be critical toward the steady reduction of highway deaths. Ultimately, we envision a future where no one is killed on American roads.”
Although the House and Senate bills have differences, Cohen expressed optimism on the prospects for final passage of a bill this year.
“The Highway Users is pleased that both bills are moving forward in their respective chambers. Once the bills pass the House and Senate this month, it will be important to resolve the differences as quickly as possible, enact a conference report that can pass both chambers and be signed into law by President Obama. It is way past time to get America’s people and economy moving again.”
American Road & Transportation Builders Association President and CEO Pete Ruane expressed similar sentiments.
“The surface transportation reauthorization process has been gridlocked on Capitol Hill for 28 months. With action in several House committees this week on a multi-year bill, the logjam is beginning to break free,” Ruane said. “We commend the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and other Congressional leaders for their commitment to move the legislation forward.
“In late 2007, ARTBA released a 72-page report containing the transportation construction industry’s legislative recommendations for the next reauthorization bill. It called for an increase in infrastructure investment to meet the needs identified by the U.S. Department of Transportation. It also outlined a series of reforms to improve the efficiency of the transportation planning process.
“The House bill would put many of these meaningful reforms into place. Its proposals to consolidate or eliminate duplicative programs, reduce bureaucratic red tape to help speed the delivery of transportation improvements, expand the use of innovative finance and public-private partnerships and eliminate earmarks will help to restore the public’s trust in the value of federal transportation investment.
“At the same time, however, the measure would authorize less for the core federal highway and transit programs than what Congress approved for FY 2011. As the legislative process continues to play out, we trust members of the House and Senate will continue to explore ways to boost investment levels and prevent job loss.
“It is essential that the House advance its multiyear bill. After more than two years of can-kicking, it’s time to get the job done. The transportation construction industry needs a bill, the American people need a bill, and the U.S. economy needs a bill.”