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Draft legislation of Senate EPW Committee surface transportation bill is well-received

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
May 26, 2011

Members of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee have been working on draft legislation focusing on reauthorizing the country’s surface transportation programs.

The legislation, entitled, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), addresses various issues related to future planning and goals for surface transportation, according to EPW, including:
-funding programs at current levels to maintain and modernize our critical transportation infrastructure;
-eliminating earmarks;
-consolidates numerous programs to focus resources on key national goals and reduce duplicative and wasteful programs;
-consolidating numerous programs into a more focused freight program that will improve the movement of goods; and
-creating a new section called America Fast Forward, which strengthens the TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) program to stretch federal dollars further than they have been stretched before, among others.

“We are pleased to announce the great progress we have made on a new transportation authorization bill,” said Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Committee, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, and Senator David Vitter (R-LA), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, in a joint statement.  “Throughout the 25 transportation hearings convened by this Committee…we heard that there is tremendous support from businesses, workers, and the American people for a transportation bill that leverages our federal dollars while maintaining a responsible fiscal path.”

The senators added that in cooperation with the Finance Committee, they are exploring a wide range of options to support and sustain the Highway Trust Fund (HTF).
The HTF Highway Trust Fund is comprised of revenues collected from the federal gasoline tax and they are used for annual highway and transit programs. The federal gasoline tax at 19.4 cents for gasoline and 23.4 cents for diesel and has not been increased since 1993. But raising the tax has long been labeled by lawmakers on both side of the aisle as a “non-starter,” especially now, given the focus on fiscal austerity in light of the recent mid-term elections.

With the HTF not likely to increase anytime soon and surface transportation funding being kept intact at current levels through the end of the fiscal year through a series of continuing resolutions, stakeholders in the freight and logistics community are clamoring for a bill that can address needed transportation infrastructure issues and also be done in a cost-effective manner.

The EPW legislation was well-received by the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC).
“We are delighted to see a focused freight program identified as part of the core content of the upcoming bill and look forward to seeing the bill language addressing the critical needs of our nation’s freight gateways, corridors and hubs,” said CAGTC Executive Director Leslie Blakey in a statement. “Investment in this essential driver now will pay dividends in the near future and for generations to come. We applaud the work of both Committees and are very pleased to see the growing recognition of the importance of a dedicated program for multimodal freight.”

Former House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James L. Oberstar said at the NASSTRAC Logistics Conference and Expo earlier this year that more priority needs to be placed on the movement of freight in the U.S., given the aging transportation system which is no longer keeping pace with international trade and has a direct impact on the economy and job growth.

This is key considering the U.S. transportation infrastructure system has long been the envy of the world, with Oberstar pointing out that would not be possible without the financial support of the Highway Trust Fund.

“The answer is American ingenuity and know how and the necessity and will to make it work,” said Oberstar. “But today we are investing 1.9 percent of our GDP in our infrastructure. Europe is investing 5 percent, and China is investing 9 percent. You often hear things like ‘we will do more with less,’ but nobody does more with less with infrastructure.”

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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