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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Congress OKs five-year transportation funding bill


Both houses of Congress yesterday passed the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which provides five years of dedicated transportation funding.

The bill now proceeds to the White House, where President Obama is expected to sign it into law. The current extension on transportation funding was slated to expire at midnight tonight.

The FAST Act will provide about $300 billion over five years and includes environmental streamlining provisions that could speed up project delivery, according to the American Associations of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

Passage of the bill elicited a variety of responses from several lawmakers and organizations, with many expressing support.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) praised the bill's rail safety provisions, such as a requirement that railroads inform first responders about hazardous materials moving through their communities.

"I am so grateful to the advocates, first responders, local officials, and concerned citizens who have spoken out and demanded increased transparency, communication and accountability when it comes to keeping our Wisconsin communities along oil train routes safe," Baldwin said. "I have been sounding the alarm for two years on the need to put in place strong rail safety reforms and today we have taken major action to hold railroad companies accountable and protect Wisconsin’s citizens from the catastrophic consequences of these dangerous derailments."

Other responses to the bill follow.

"It is a tremendous relief to know that with the FAST Act, state departments of transportation will have some reasonable long-term certainty regarding the levels of federal investments for surface transportation."
Paul Trombino, AASHTO president and Iowa Department of Transportation director

"We applaud this bipartisan support for a transportation bill that marks another step toward increased freight rail safety, our industry's top priority," said Chet Thompson, president of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers. "Congress rightly concluded that annual retrofit progress reports are critical to prevent supply disruption of products, including the fuels that make America's modern lifestyle possible."
Chet Thompson, president of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers

"I cannot support a piece of legislation that falls well short of the obligation Congress has to fix our broken Highway Trust Fund. Sadly, Congress has opted to pilfer tomorrow’s dollars to pay for today’s need to rebuild and modern our country’s transportation system. While this bill includes some good transportation policies, the way we pay for these policies is unsustainable and irresponsible, offering little more than a grab bag of budget gimmicks that will actually increase our deficit in the long run. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office has already told us that when this bill expires, the Highway Trust Fund will be $100 billion in the hole."
U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.)

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 12/4/2015