Category: Federal

Senate, House tangle over highway funding cliff

In the past week, with just days left before the Highway Trust Fund runs dry, both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed short-term measures that would keep the fund solvent through the end of this year.

While both plans are essentially short-term patches for a long-term problem—meeting America’s growing infrastructure needs with funding from a gas tax that hasn’t risen since 1993—the Senate version, passed Tuesday, is a big step in the right direction.

Gone are the pension-smoothing and accounting gimmicks, included in the House’s earlier version of the bill, that Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) called “generational theft.” Furthermore, rather than delay the Trust Fund’s insolvency to May of 2015, the new proposal only runs through the end of this year, forcing Congress to confront a long-term solution sooner.

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Obama announces new Build America Investment Initiative

Today, President Obama announced the launch of the Build America Investment Initiative, a new government-wide initiative to invest in the nation’s transportation infrastructure by expanding opportunities for the public and private sectors to partner and better leverage each other’s resources to grow jobs and strengthen the economy.

In addition, the initiative will create the Build America Transportation Investment Center within the US Department of Transportation, tasked with providing cities and states with both the tools and other forms of technical assistance needed to create innovative financing solutions such as TIFIA to fund transportation infrastructure improvements and the support necessary to remove regulatory barriers that prevent the public and private sectors from collaborating on ways to fund infrastructure.

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House Appropriations Committee markup cuts EPA funding

Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee marked up the fiscal year 2015 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill. The legislation would cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) overall funding by 9 percent in addition to cutting funding for EPA programs important to helping communities advance smart growth solutions.

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Congress moves toward short-term transportation fix

Wyden-FInance-markup
Chairman Wyden helped two committees arrive at a short-term fix.

This week, the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees moved toward passing a short-term fix for the transportation funding crisis, with each committee passing a complementary bill designed to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent through at least early 2015. If passed into law, the bills would transfer $10.8 billion dollars to the trust fund, keeping federal transportation operations in the black for another few months.

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President Obama Calls on Congress to Save Highway Trust Fund

Yesterday afternoon in Washington, DC, President Obama called on Congress to adopt a long-term transportation bill on the scale of his recently proposed four-year, $302 billion program. In a speech in front of the Key Bridge in Georgetown, the president also appealed to Congress to save the Highway Trust Fund from pending insolvency, which would threaten jobs and the progress of vital transportation projects nationwide.

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“They’re gonna need to see this upstairs.”

USDOT-selfie
Smart Growth America President Geoff Anderson personally delivered the safety rule comments to USDOT.

“They’re gonna need to see this upstairs” — that’s what the staff at the U.S. Department of Transportation said about your letters this week.

By Monday afternoon, over 1500 of you made your voices heard in support of stronger transportation safety measures through our online action. Geoff Anderson, president and CEO of Smart Growth America, personally delivered your letters calling on USDOT to require that states set real targets for reducing the number of deaths and serious injuries on our streets and that they be held accountable as they work toward those goals.

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Last chance to tell USDOT to set real safety goals

Students walk along street with no sidewalks next to automobile traffic.

There’s just one week left to tell the US Department of Transportation to get serious about safety and accountability.

In MAP-21, the current federal law governing national transportation investments, Congress directed the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to set certain measures of progress for the state transportation agencies. In March, USDOT unveiled its proposal for measuring and showing progress in reducing traffic fatalities and serious injuries both as pure numbers and as a function of vehicles miles traveled (VMT). Congress clearly stated that they wanted a “significant reduction” in fatalities and injuries for all users on all roads, and they doubled the amount available through the related safety program to help achieve that goal.

USDOT’s proposal falls short. Send a letter to Secretary Foxx today.

First, states only need to show progress in two of those four goals, which is out of step with Congressional intent.

Second, the process for setting goals and measuring progress is out of line with the goals states already develop—and no where near visionary or inspiring. Instead, USDOT would use a historical trend line to establish targets each year. States make “significant progress” by achieving fatality or injury numbers within a 70 percent confidence interval of that projected trend line. If a state’s target is determined to be 759 fatalities, so long as it sees fewer than 825 fatalities, USDOT will say that it has made progress. More people can die or be seriously injured without consequence.

Our third issue with the rulemaking: it doesn’t separate non-motorized users from motorized. In doing so, states could lose sight of growing safety problems in walking and bicycling among the larger share, and generally downward trending, of vehicular safety.

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Senate Appropriations Committee Marks Up FY15 THUD Bill

Yesterday, the Senate FY15 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee by a 29-1 vote. The bill proposes funding levels for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Transportation (DOT) and other related agencies for fiscal year 2015.

This comes on the heels of the House Appropriations Committee passing their version last month. Overall, the Senate bill would provide $54.4 billion in discretionary budget authority for THUD agencies, as opposed to the $52 billion from the House bill. Despite the funding differences between the two bills, the final funding decisions will likely be determined in an omnibus appropriations package later this year.

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