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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation
Surface transportation funding measure could pass by year's end, LaHood says

Political pressure to craft legislation that would produce jobs could prompt members of Congress to reach an agreement on a surface transportation infrastructure bill before year’s end, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said yesterday in remarks to the National Press Club.

“I believe we are going to get an infrastructure program, and it will happen by the end of the calendar year,” LaHood said in response to an audience member’s question. “There is enormous pressure on members of Congress. When they go back home, the one thing they are hearing [from their constituents] is, what are you doing about jobs and the economy?”

LaHood noted that both Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, are working on long-term surface transportation bills.

Mica and House leaders are preparing a six-year transportation infrastructure bill, and Boxer and Senate leaders, a two-year measure.

“I know they both get it,” LaHood said, referring to Mica and Boxer’s understanding that a transportation infrastructure bill would create thousands of jobs.

During his speech, LaHood promoted President Obama’s jobs bill, which would include $50 billion in infrastructure spending for roads, bridges, rail and airport projects, and $10 billion for the creation of a national infrastructure bank that would help finance transportation projects.

The $447 billion jobs bill was defeated in the Senate earlier this week, but LaHood continued to push for Congress to act on legislation that would “put Americans back to work.”

He noted that the nation’s transportation system is in dire need of repair and modernization, and that the United States is falling behind economic competitors in Europe and Asia that are investing in modern transportation systems.

“Our U.S. transportation systems are overburdened and vastly becoming obsolete,” he said. “As recently as 2005, America’s transportation infrastructure was ranked the best in the world. Today, we’re not even in the Top 10.”

— Julie Sneider

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