A critical milestone was reached today when House and Senate leaders unveiled a compromise version of the surface transportation reauthorization bill which has been the topic of intense negotiations. Congressional leaders will be working to pass the final bill through both the House and Senate by the end of this week before Congress adjourns for the July 4th recess. The Conference Report merges the Senate-passed bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), with numerous provisions from the House T&I Committee proposal. Read the Conference Report bill text here and the Joint Explanatory Statement here.
The conference report would provide funding of $101 billion from the Highway Trust Fund over the next two fiscal years (FY2013 and 2014), with the assumption that $4.7 billion will be appropriated from the General Fund over the same time period in order to maintain current funding levels plus a 1.4 percent inflation increase each year. General Fund revenues would be offset by adjustments to pension interest rates and an increase in Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation premiums. The bill also includes funding for provisions that are part of the broader legislative package like flood insurance and hazmat safety, while extending student loans and directing funding from fines related to the BP oil spill. Several of the more contentious provisions such as approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and coal ash regulatory relief were removed in exchange for aggressive environmental streamlining language sought by the House.
The bill consolidates nearly 100 programs, eliminates earmarks, and provides states with more spending flexibility including loosening requirements that states spend money on bike paths, pedestrian projects and other transportation enhancements or ‘alternatives’. The bill also expedites project delivery, updates the statewide and metropolitan planning process, ensures that ITS technologies are eligible for funding within every major formula program, and establishes a performance management process to improve accountability in areas including highway condition and performance, safety, congestion and air quality, and freight movement.