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Senate EPW focused on long-term transportation authorization

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
April 11, 2014

As time rapidly runs out before the current federal transportation authorization, MAP-21, expires at the end of September, it remains to be seen what the future holds in terms of what happens after that.

There could be a long-term bill coming, but given the fact that when MAP-21’s predecessor, the six-year SAFETEA-LU expired, it was not immediately replaced by MAP-21, which many industry stakeholders view mainly as a stop-gap bill due to its two-year length, but instead what followed SAFETEA-LU was a series of continuing resolutions, 26 to be exact, that kept funding at the same levels and no improvements in terms of transportation authorization i.e. more of the same stuff with no true dedicated focus on freight mobility and a Highway Trust Fund continually teetering on the edge of insolvency.

Well, maybe we are finally going to see some changes and improvements at least when it comes to the “vision” for future transportation authorizations. Why and how? A short answer comes from a presser held by the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held this week.

EPW leadership, including Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator David Vitter (R-LA), Ranking Member of the Committee, Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, and Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, banded together to proclaim they have reached “an agreement in principle on a transportation bill.”

This being Washington and all, the announcement was equal parts promising as well as lacking detail.

But they did release a short list of principles that would serve as cogs or foundations for a future authorization, including:
-passing a long-term bill, as opposed to a short-term patch;
-maintaining the formulas for existing core programs;
-promoting fiscal responsibility by keeping current levels of funding, plus inflation;
-focusing on policies that expand opportunities for rural areas;
-continuing our efforts to leverage local resources to accelerate the construction of transportation projects, create jobs, and spur economic growth ; and
-requiring better information sharing regarding federal grants.

It seems like these principles serve as a good starting point, especially the first one regarding the need for a long-term bill. But, clearly, there is a long, long way to go before we see anything truly representing progress or action.

Even without showing most of her cards, Senator Boxer was firm in her assessment of where