By Steve Rizer
The new “MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century) Reauthorization” bill (S. 2322), which would reauthorize the nation’s transportation programs for six years at current funding plus inflation, has cleared its first hurdle. In a unanimous vote, the 18-member Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last week approved the measure, but it is only one of several votes at the committee and chamber levels necessary for eventual passage. Existing MAP-21 authorization expires Sept. 30.
S. 2322 would reauthorize the gas tax to help provide $204 billion in financing for transportation projects. The $265-billion bill would reauthorize the federal-aid highway program at the Congressional Budget Office’s baseline level -- equal to current funding plus inflation from fiscal 2015 through FY’20. The measure would maintain current formulas and increase the amount each state receives each fiscal year.
S. 2322 next will go to the full Senate for consideration, where it will be combined with measures from the Senate committees on Finance; Commerce; Science and Transportation; and Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. The bill, introduced May 12, has three cosponsors.
In lauding the Environment and Public Works Committee’s endorsement of S. 2322, Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) Chief Executive Officer Stephen Sandherr called on senators and representatives from both parties to “follow the committee’s lead and swiftly pass this vital economic measure before the current legislation expires at the end of September. They also must act now to keep the federal Highway Trust Fund [HTF] solvent for years to come.” HTF is projected to run out of funds this summer.
Sandherr pledged his group’s continued involvement in the “Hardhats for Highways” campaign, the stated mission of which is to “educate members of Congress about the many local economic benefits of investing in our roads, bridges, and transit systems.” To date, construction workers and owners participating in this campaign have sent approximately 6,000 messages to 406 members of Congress, urging their support for a new surface transportation bill and new revenues for HTF.
The American Society of Professional Engineers echoed Sandherr’s sentiment, stating that 2014 represents “a critical year for America’s infrastructure. There is an issue in Washington that, if unaddressed, could bring the American economy to a halt: the expiration of the federal transportation bill and the impending insolvency of [HTF]. The Highway Trust Fund spends over $48 billion annually to repair and modernize roads, bridges, and transit systems in every state across the country. This revenue comes from a motor fuels user fee that has not been raised since 1993. Simply, we are trying to fund a 2014 transportation system on 1993 dollars. Given this untenable formula, when the fund finally becomes insolvent at the end of the year, highway and transit programs will sustain a 92 percent cut if Congress fails to act. For too long, we have been told that we do not have the resources or that funding is not available to fix our ailing infrastructure systems. This will be a year of stark choices for Congress. Will Congress finally commit to the longer-term, sustainable funding mechanisms that our ailing roads, bridges, and transit systems so desperately need?”
The ConstructionPro Network member version of this article includes a transcript of ConstructionPro Week’s interview with Brian Deery, senior director of AGC’s Highway and Transportation Division, and additional details about the bill.