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Rail News Home Federal Legislation & Regulation

6/29/2012



Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Industry leaders respond to transportation bill's compromises


Transportation industry stakeholders continued to react to the House-Senate Transportation Conference Committee’s agreement on a proposed new surface transportation reauthorization bill.

If passed by both the House and Senate, the bill would be “an important victory,” said National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association Inc. (NRC) officials in a prepared statement.

Congress is expected to consider the bill today and tomorrow, when the latest extension to the existing SAFETEA-LU law is set to expire.

“The bill maintains funding at existing spending levels by transferring approximately $18.8 billion from the general fund to the Highway and Mass Transit Accounts of the Highway Trust Fund, offset by changes to the public and private contribution requirements and transfers from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank trust fund,” NRC officials said.

Although it would not be a six-year bill as had been hoped, the bill would provide state departments of transportation and transit agencies some certainty in their future federal funding, which would help spur increased investment in infrastructure, they added.

The legislation also would maintain the historic 80 percent/20 percent funding split between highway and transit programs.

Of interest to the railway supply community, the bill would preserve Section 130 highway grade crossing set asides; contain no rail title, thus no language on positive train control; and retain a two-year truck size and weigh study to be conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation, said Railway Supply Institute Inc. officials in a prepared statement.

The compromise contains provisions that would “place unprecedented emphasis on freight movement and its importance to the United States economy,” said officials from the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors.

“Among the prescribed freight provisions, the bill contains two long-standing priorities of the [coalition]: the continuation of SAFETEA-LU’s Projects of National and Regional Significance program and the establishment of a national freight policy,” they said.

Here is a sampling of other statements made by various association leaders:

“This authorization period will provide public transit agencies and the business community with a greater degree of certainty than they have had since the expiration of SAFETEA-LU. We urge Congress to approve the agreement and the President to sign this bill into law, because investing in public transit is essential to creating American jobs and boosting our economy.” — American Public Transportation Association President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Melaniphy

“The conference report is a disappointment. It compromises safety, it is a step backwards in how we take care of and repair out roads and bridges, and it bypasses the kinds of innovative transportation solutions that we should expect out of a new transportation reauthorization.” — Smart Growth America President and CEO Geoffrey Anderson

“With this bill Congress had the opportunity to establish a transportation program that would support communities' efforts to become more sustainable and economically resilient. Unfortunately, the conference report missed this opportunity and is in many ways a retreat from these goals. While I am pleased to see that funding for public transit was preserved at current levels, rather than being cut by 30 percent as was proposed last year, and that some transit-oriented development language was included, the bill could have done so much more to provide transportation choices for people in rural, suburban, and urban areas to connect them with jobs, education, healthcare, and opportunity.” — Reconnecting America President and CEO John Robert Smith


Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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