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Senate committee to tackle transportation plan Wednesday

In addition to strengthening the TIFIA program, MAP-21 consolidates the number of Federal programs by two-thirds, from about 90 programs to fewer than 30, and eliminates earmarks.

The Trucker Staff

11/8/2011

WASHINGTON — The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has released its version of a new transportation authorization bill, scheduled for mark-up Wednesday morning.

The bi-partisan two-year package, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), maintains funding at current levels and is designed to reform the nation’s transportation programs to make them more efficient while providing assistance for transportation projects under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program to leverage state, local, and private-sector funding.

In addition to strengthening the TIFIA program, MAP-21 consolidates the number of Federal programs by two-thirds, from about 90 programs to fewer than 30, and eliminates earmarks. It also includes provisions to consolidate some programs into a focused freight plan. MAP-21 also aims to expedite project delivery while protecting the environment.

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“I am proud to be chairman of a committee that has joined together across party lines to write a strong, job-creating transportation bill,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat and chairman of the committee. “I believe that our bill will not only protect the 1.8 million existing transportation jobs, but we will also create up to an additional million jobs thanks to the way our bill leverages federal funds.”

Sen. David Vitter, a Republican from Louisiana and ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, likewise has hopes for a plan developed with input from both parties.

“I’m encouraged that we’ve found an efficient way of addressing some of our most important transportation needs,” Vitter said. “The American people — and many American businesses — depend on reliable infrastructure, and I’m glad that we were able to find some common ground with this bipartisan bill.”

The current surface transportation bill, originally set to expire two years ago, has been extended until March 31, and many groups — ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the AFL-CIO — have called for immediate action to reauthorize the nation’s transportation programs.

“We are happy to see the process has begun to put in place a long-term surface transportation authorization,” said John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. “We look forward to seeing the markup this week in committee. Meanwhile, we are reviewing the draft legislation and we look forward to working with the committee to craft the kind of robust, flexible legislation that will help states build and maintain a transportation system that meets our nation’s needs in the 21st century.”

On the other side of the Capitol, House Republicans are pitching a six-year transportation construction plan as a major jobs bill.

The GOP bill would spend about $285 billion over the six years, but would spur far greater investment in roads, bridges, and transit systems through federal loans and loan guarantees, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Mica said at a recent media briefing.

Click here for the 600-page bill text for MAP-21 and a bill summary.

Kevin Jones of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at kevinj@thetrucker.com.

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