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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

House, Senate conference committee strikes deal on new transportation bill


Yesterday, the House and Senate Transportation Conference Committee concluded work on a bicameral, bipartisan agreement on a major transportation bill.

And this morning, the House Rules Committee released the bill (H.R. 4348), according to a report on The Hill’s website.

The legislation would establish federal highway, transit and highway safety policy and maintain transportation funding programs at current levels through the end of fiscal-year 2014, conference committee members said in prepared statements.

“Not only will this reform bill provide a boost to the economy and the construction industry, but it is a big win for the middle class, business, and our environment,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee and the conference committee. “This agreement provides stability and flexibility for the nation’s transportation planners, invests in America’s crumbling roads and bridges, and puts people back to work.”

The conference committee, which has been negotiating the details of a bill since May 8, was working under a tight deadline because the latest extension of SAFETEA-LU will expire on Saturday.

The bill does not contain “earmarks” and will not increase taxes, said Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“The unprecedented reforms in this legislation — cutting red tape, truly making projects ‘shovel ready,’ shrinking the size of the federal bureaucracy, attracting more private sector participation, and giving states more flexibility to address their critical priorities — will ensure that we more effectively move forward with major highway and bridge improvements and put Americans back to work,” Mica said.

The legislation would provide the necessary reforms to focus the nation’s “limited resources on critical infrastructure needs,” he added.

Both bodies are expected to take up the measure before the end of the week.

Many business and industry representatives concurred that the legislation would provide a boost to the U.S. economy.

“This measure offers a much-needed lifeline for tens of thousands of construction workers trying to earn a good living and feed their families … [and] provides the kind of serious and substantive reforms needed to make the federal program more cost-efficient and more effective at delivering needed transportation improvements,” said Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued the following statement: “The chamber, which along with a broad group of stakeholders, has been opposed to significant cuts in funding, applauds the conferees’ decision to avert significant cuts in highway, transit, and safety programs that would have resulted had legislation relied solely on expected Highway Trust Fund receipts.  Since the funding levels are not as high as needed to address the nation’s transportation challenges, the chamber will continue the fight for increased investment as we pursue a predictable, sustainable, and growing source of dedicated, user-fee based funding in the months ahead.”

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/28/2012