ASCE Reports: The House and Senate are very close on a final agreement for a new surface transportation authorization bill. At press time a partial agreement has been reached on the highway policy portions of the legislation and conferees (and staff) will continue to work through the weekend in order to finish a bill before the June 30th deadline. Issues that are still being worked on include rail, hazardous materials, highway safety provisions, and a resolution on the Keystone Pipeline. The final piece of the puzzle will be the funding sources for the bill which will determine its length. ASCE has been told that “paying for the bill” will be the focus of staff efforts over the weekend.
The partial agreement comes after House and Senate leadership stepped in earlier this week to urge a final conference report by June 30th, when the current extension expires. After meeting with Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), conference Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Vice-Chairman John Mica (R-FL) began intense negotiations. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is now optimistic that there will not be an extension and stated “there’s significant progress being made.”
The House this week also voted on a couple of non-binding motions to instruct conferees. The first motion from Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN) urged conferees to file a conference report by today. The motion passed with overwhelming bipartisan support 386-44. The other motion came from Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), a civil engineer and ASCE member, which insisted that the EPA defer regulation of coal ash to states. The McKinley motion passed 260-138.
Meanwhile, ASCE members continue to urge conferees in their home state to pass a bill; Mike Guter, Robert Victor, and Kam Movassaghi all were published in their local newspapers. ASCE will notify all Key Contacts next week if a final agreement is reached, and we ask that you continue to contact your legislators and urge them to pass a surface transportation bill before the current extension expires on June 30th.
Transportation Appropriations Heading To House Floor
The House Appropriations Committee this week marked up the Transportation and Housing & Urban Development appropriations bill, which passed by voice vote. The bill’s overall total of $51.6 billion in discretionary spending would be $3.9 billion less than fiscal 2012 and $1.9 billion less than the president’s request. Overall, the House was supportive of most transportation programs, maintaining investment for highways and making minor increases for the FAA and Amtrak. However, one of the bigger cuts in the House bill is the zeroing out the discretionary TIGER program, which provides grants for infrastructure projects that have national or regional significance.
The full spending breakdown:
• Highways – Provides $39.1 billion from the Highway Trust Fund to be spent, the same level as last year and $2.7 billion below the President’s request.
• Air – The FAA would receive $12.6 billion, $91 million above last year’s level. The bill also provides nearly $1 billion for NextGen and rejects the Administration’s proposal for new aviation fees.
• Rail – The Federal Railroad Administration is funded with $2 billion, which is $384 million above last year’s level and $716 million below the President’s request. This funding includes $1.8 billion for Amtrak, to be primarily used for capital improvements.
• Transit – The Federal Transit Administration would receive $2 billion, which is $181 million below last year’s level and $546 million below the President’s request. The bill would also provide $1.8 billion for the “New Starts” program.
• Maritime – The bill includes $338 million for the Maritime Administration, a decline of $12 million from last year and $7 million below the President’s request.
• Safety – The bill includes $776 million for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a decrease of $23.8 million from last year; $551 million for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a decrease of $2.6 million from last year; and $177 million for the Pipeline and Hazardous Safety Administration, an increase of $4 million from last year.
The bill is expected to be considered on the House floor next week.
DOT Announces Tiger 2012 Grants
Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, announced that 47 transportation projects in 34 states and the District of Columbia will receive a total of almost $500 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) 2012 program.
The TIGER program is a highly competitive program that is able to fund innovative projects of regional of national significance. These federal funds are being leveraged with money from private sector partners, states, local governments, metropolitan planning organizations and transit agencies.
Applications for this most recent round of grants totaled $10.2 billion, far exceeding the $500 million set aside for the program. In all, the Department received 703 applications from all 50 states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.
The grants will fund a wide range of innovative transportation projects in urban and rural areas across the country. To see a full list of project check out the TIGER 2012 site.