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Senate Committee Touts Six-Year Transportation Bill

May 14 – According to the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA), leaders of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee released a bipartisan, six-year surface transportation bill May 12 that would maintain spending on federal-aid highways at current levels plus inflation.

The $252 billion bill would authorize new spending on freight programs, add award grants for states’ best practices that save time and costs, and maintain the low-interest TIFIA infrastructure loans at current levels. EPW Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and ranking member David Vitter (R-La.) announced in a statement that the bill would provide states and localities with certainty and create jobs. The "MAP-21 Reauthorization Act" (S.2322) will be marked up by the committee May 15.

The bill would authorize $38.4 billion out of the Highway Trust Fund for fiscal year 2015, then increase with inflation in the following years to: $39.2 billion in 2016; $40 billion in 2017; $40.8 billion in 2018; $41.7 billion in 2019; and $42.6 in 2020.

TIGER grants, which are currently funded at $600 million, would drop to $400 million, but the bill would add a program authorized to spend up to $125 million per year for awards to states that show special innovation or efficiency.

As expected, the draft bill does not include a new funding plan, as that jurisdiction lies with the Senate Finance Committee. Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) convened a hearing May 6 to study the various options and proposals on the table in order to come up with about $18 billion per year of new revenue to fund the EPW bill.

Any final bill would have to merge the EPW and Finance Committee plans with forthcoming titles from the Banking and Commerce committees to address transit and highway safety needs respectively.

National Stone, Sand and Gravel (NSSGA) President and CEO Mike Johnson said, “I commend Chairman Boxer and Ranking Member Vitter on their good work in drafting a multi-year, level-funded surface transportation reauthorization bill. The introduction of the bill is another very positive step forward and today's work by the committee is yet another. However, Congress has a lot of work to do and not much time to do it if our nation is to avoid the rapidly-approaching crisis facing the Highway Trust Fund. NSSGA will redouble our advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill to take advantage of this momentum to push Congress to get the job done."

“This is a crucial year for America’s surface transportation infrastructure,” said Paul I. Detwiler III, NSSGA chairman and New Enterprise Stone & Lime Co., Inc.'s president and CEO. “States are already feeling the effects of a steadily-eroding funding stream from the federal government as projects continue to stall. If the Highway Trust Fund is allowed to dip into insolvency, no new projects will be started in the latter half of 2014. America’s aging and crumbling infrastructure demands immediate attention and a long-term vision that will return this nation to its status as the economic envy of the world. We welcome the Senate’s proposal and encourage all members of Congress to act swiftly.”