Senate rushes to pass reauthorizing measure

News NAPA November 14, 2003
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The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved a $255 billion measure reauthorizing highway construction and repair

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved a $255 billion measure reauthorizing highway construction and repair projects over the next six years.


The committee approved the legislation, which would reauthorize the federal highway transportation funding bill known as TEA-21 on a 17-2 vote despite complaints from some members about not being given the details on the formula that will be used by the transportation department to divide up funding among states.


Prior to the markup members were given funding estimates, and Chairman James Inhofe said the committee would convene a members-only meeting on the day of the President's State of the Union address in January to go over the funding formulas in detail.


Inhofe, along with Sen. Kit Bond and Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee ranking Democrat Harry Reid, repeatedly defended their decision not to release the funding formulas, arguing it was the best way to move the bill. They said they were concerned that lawmakers unhappy with their states' allocations would lobby aggressively for more money.


The actual annual funding levels for both the highway program and each state will be added to the bill on the Senate floor early next week. Also not included are the revenue provisions needed to fund the $255 billion bill. The Senate Finance Committee will meet early next year to draft this section of the bill.


The committee did consider 15 amendments at the markup session, including:

* Approved on a 10-9 vote to authorize $960 million to create a highway storm water discharge mitigation program;


* Approved on a 10-9 vote an amendment that would change the funding formula to ensure urban areas "get a fair allocation" of surface transportation funds to states;


* Defeated on a 10-9 vote a move that would allow states to build fee-based lanes on interstate highways if the fees are only used on new lanes, are assessed electronically and would expire when the lanes are paid for; and


* Rejected on a 12-6 vote an amendment that would have required research into thermal collapse to also include an examination of the effects of permafrost on roads.


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