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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Surface transportation bill a hot topic at Senate public works committee hearing


The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) held its first hearing of the 114th Congress yesterday, as it prepared to draft a new surface transportation bill to replace the existing MAP-21 extension that expires May 31.

In his testimony to the committee, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx warned that the United States is falling behind in innovation and economic competitiveness because of the condition of its aging transportation infrastructure.

The nation needs a multiyear transportation bill with funding growth and policy reforms focused on the future, he said. When Congress passed a 10-month extension of the two-year surface transportation funding law last year, it was the 32nd time in the past six years that lawmakers passed a short-term extension rather than pass a long-term funding measure.

"We need funding certainty for a longer period of time — not just six months or two years," Foxx wrote yesterday in his blog on the U.S. Department of Transportation website yesterday. "If we want communities to build the projects they need — projects that can take five years or more — we need to ensure funding for roughly the same amount of time."

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the EPW ranking member, told the committee that a growing number of states are already delaying transportation construction projects because of uncertainty over the future of federal funding. The MAP-21 extension expires just as the construction season is heating up, she noted.

"Addressing the Highway Trust Fund shortfall and passing a long-term transportation bill before the May deadline will have a real economic impact across the country," Boxer said in a prepared statement. "It will provide funding stability for state and local governments and businesses that rely on federal transportation funding, and it will create or save millions of jobs."

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) announced yesterday that he plans to introduce a bill that would use international corporate tax reform to help fund a six-year surface transportation bill.

Delaney said he expects to build a bipartisan coalition to support his "Infrastructure 2.0" proposal, which would establish deemed repatriation at an 8.75 percent tax rate for existing overseas earnings. The measure would provide enough revenue to provide an additional $120 billion to the Highway Trust Fund, enough for six years of solvency at increased spending levels, Delaney said in a press release. In addition, the bill would create a new $50 billion infrastructure fund that could be leveraged to finance $750 billion in new infrastructure projects in transportation, water, energy, communications and education.

The bill would include a trigger for broader international tax reform and set up a commission for long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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