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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Congress continues to address Highway Trust Fund's insolvency

With the insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund quickly approaching, the House Committee on Ways and Means is set to mark up a short-term funding bill today, according to an American Public Transportation Association (APTA) legislative alert.

Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the committee's chairman, earlier this week introduced a bill that would infuse $10.8 billion into the Highway Trust Fund, which would constitute enough revenue to sustain both the highway and mass transit accounts through May 2015. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has indicated he expects the full House to vote on the legislation next week, according to APTA.

Yesterday, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) voiced opposition to the proposed legislation, saying it would undermine the effort to pass a long-term transportation reauthorization bill this year.

"This ill-conceived proposal would prolong uncertainty for business, local governments and the states, and would create another financial crisis right before the next construction season," said Boxer, who chairs the House Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), in a prepared statement.

Added Carper, a member of the House Finance Committee who also chairs the EPW Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure: "We know all that we need to know about the options for fixing the Highway Trust Fund and fulfilling our promise to states to be a partner in infrastructure investment. Giving Congress another year will not reveal any new solutions, it's only stalling and dodging the hard decisions that voters sent us to Congress to make."

Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Finance has developed its own proposal that initially was released in a mark up before the July 4 holiday. Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) advanced a draft proposal to provide $8 billion to the Highway Trust Fund, including the Mass Transit Account, to support current spending levels for a three-month extension of MAP-21. Wyden and ranking member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said they would continue to work on a bipartisan agreement that would enable the bill to advance when the full Senate returns to session, according to APTA's alert.

As Congress continues to debate ways to address the Highway Trust Fund's insolvency, transit industry leaders yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964, which created the program for federal investment in public transportation by providing grants and loans to assist local transit systems. It also created what is known today as the Federal Transit Administration. The federal, state, local and private partnerships that the act created were key to revitalizing public transit systems that were in decline, according to APTA.

"Fifty years ago, Congress took a visionary step in authorizing federal funding for public transportation that has ushered in public transit services that now provide 10.7 billion trips annually and have spurred economic growth for our communities and nation," said APTA President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Melaniphy. "APTA calls on Congress to continue this legacy and take decisive action to address the Highway Trust Fund and Mass Transit Account shortfalls this month and work towards passage of a multi-year, well-funded transportation bill in the coming months."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/10/2014