Archive for May, 2011

House and Senate Finalizing Transportation Legislation

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

The House and Senate committees charged with reauthorizing the nation’s surface transportation law are getting close to releasing draft legislation, with the leadership of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) releasing a statement last week outlining guiding principles for the Senate’s version of the bill. The Senators said the bill would fund programs at current levels while eliminating earmarks and consolidating numerous programs to focus resources on key national goals. 

An additional $6 billion is needed over the next two years to keep the Highway trust fund solvent and $12 billion annually after that.  Due to these shortfalls, speculation is increasing that a transportation bill in the two to three year range could be an option. 

Meanwhile, House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) expects draft legislation to be complete within two to three weeks.

Rep. Nick Rahall (W.Va.), the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee, last week said Congress should consider increasing the gas tax and indexing it to inflation as a means of generating higher revenues for the highway trust fund.  Though the fuel tax has not been increased since 1994, Rahall acknowledged that it’s a political nonstarter with fuel prices exceeding $4 a gallon.

Rep. Duncan Says Highway Bill Priority; Supports Commercialization Ban

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Rep. Jimmy Duncan (R-Tenn.) said Congress is working hard on a new highway bill, and remains convinced it will pass a long-term bill this year. However, it won’t contain as much money as originally planned, he said, largely because Congress continues to struggle to agree on how to fund the legislation that will allocate funds for most transportation and infrastructure projects for up to six years.

Speaking to NATSO members as part of NATSO’s Day on Capitol Hill, Rep. Duncan said both Republicans and Democrats remain committed to the highway bill despite political tensions. “Everybody on both sides wants a bill,” Duncan said. “This Congress is so divided, but this may be one bill we are able to accomplish.”

When asked about rest area commercialization, Rep. Duncan indicated he would vote against any attempts to change the federal law prohibiting commercial rest areas saying, “I think the federal government has gotten into a lot of things it shouldn’t have in recent years.”

Rep. Duncan said increasing the motor fuels tax is unlikely to come into play as a revenue generator for this renewal of the highway trust fund, saying it was “not doable at this time.”