The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is inching closer to releasing a surface transportation authorization bill, which it hopes to mark up by the Fourth of July. This week the big four of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), James Inhofe (R-OK), Max Baucus (D-MT), and David Vitter (R-LA) released a much anticipated outline for the legislation. The broad outline of the bill shows that funding would be kept at current levels, meaning it would total $339.2 billion over six years. Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) acknowledged that additional revenues would need to be defined in order to move forward with the package, but at this time funding details continue to remain vague. In order to maintain current funding a minimum of an additional $13 billion annually would need to be available in the Highway Trust Fund.
Here are the key principles released yesterday:
• Funds programs at current levels to maintain and modernize our critical transportation infrastructure;
• Eliminates earmarks;
• Consolidates numerous programs to focus resources on key national goals and reduce duplicative and wasteful programs;
• Consolidates numerous programs into a more focused freight program that will improve the movement of goods;
• Creates a new section called America Fast Forward, which strengthens the TIFIA program to stretch federal dollars further than they have been stretched before; and
• Expedites project delivery without sacrificing the environment or the rights of people to be heard.
At a time of budget cuts and talk of a House surface transportation bill only totaling between $210 and $240 billion over six years, the larger sum is encouraging. However, without a way to fund the path forward is complicated. As the House and Senate roll out their differing surface transportation authorization proposals in the upcoming weeks the focus will need to be on creating a concrete way fund a critical national program, which lies at the core of government responsibility.
To read ASCE’s policy on the authorization of the nation’s surface transportation program please read our Blueprint for Success and for further information on the condition of the nation’s infrastructure please read our 2009 Report Card.