House Must ‘Move Quickly’ on Bill

Posted February 25, 2005 at 2:43pm

This past month, the bipartisan leadership of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introduced our legislation to address this nation’s crippling transportation congestion and get our people and commerce flowing again.

H.R. 3, “The Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users,” is a six-year highway safety and transit funding bill that guarantees $283.9 billion through 2009. This is a 42 percent increase in investment over the previous six-year bill.

H.R. 3 also funds highway and transit programs at a higher level than the legislation passed by the House two years ago. Recent tax law changes enacted through last year’s American Jobs Creation Act provided needed additional protections to Highway Trust Fund user fees. These fees are paid at the pump by every motorist and collected in the trust fund with the express purpose of investing in transportation maintenance and improvements.

Ethanol-related losses to the Highway Trust Fund, resulting from a 5.2 cents per gallon subsidy and the diversion of 2.5 cents per gallon to the general fund, were restored to the Highway Trust Fund under the Jobs bill.

H.R. 3 continues to protect these highway user fees and maintains America’s trust in the Trust Fund.

H.R. 3 is also a significant jobs bill. The legislation will continue and protect existing U.S. jobs in the transportation sector and related industries. For every $1 billion invested in federal highway and transit spending, 47,500 jobs are created or sustained. Transportation infrastructure generates up to a 6-to-1 net return on investment, and highway and transit investments stimulate economic activity. They increase productivity by decreasing time spent on the road, encouraging new development and increasing property values.

I’m pleased the president’s budget for fiscal 2006 includes an updated reauthorization proposal for federal highway and transit programs — the same $283.9 billion in guaranteed funding as contained in H.R. 3. This highlights the administration’s recognition of the importance of addressing America’s deteriorating highway and transit systems.

H.R. 3 retains most of the same policy features of the House bill from the 108th Congress and also provides us with an excellent starting point for negotiations with the Senate and administration. This bill reflects the considerable progress made by House and Senate conferees in last year’s negotiations.

The House must act quickly to send this bill to conference and achieve a final bill that will provide states with the steady funding stream they rely on to plan the projects that will address congestion throughout America.

Traffic congestion affects 33 percent of all travel on America’s major roadways. Each year, congestion costs American drivers $67 billion in lost productivity and wasted motor fuel. This includes 3.6 billion hours of delays and 5.7 billion gallons of fuel wasted annually. Congestion costs the average traveler who drives during peak periods $1,160 a year.

H.R. 3 creates a Congestion Relief Program that requires states to focus resources on the congestion problems on their roadways. The bill’s Congestion Relief Program implements new state spending requirements for projects that increase motor vehicle travel reliability, maximize roadway capacity and efficiency, and remove bottlenecks. The bill also establishes time periods for completion of Congestion Relief projects.

The Congestion Relief provisions will help highway managers squeeze more capacity from our existing highway investments while empowering them to build projects and conduct analyses that will also recapture unused capacity.

H.R. 3 also funds various programs that are designed to relieve congestion through the improved movement of freight.

Sixty-seven percent of the nation’s freight (8.9 billion tons in 2002), valued at more than $5 trillion annually, is transported by highway. In the next 20 years, truck travel is expected to increase 90 percent. Freight intermodal connectors — the public roads leading to major intermodal facilities — represent a vital link in the national intermodal freight network. However, these connectors are twice as likely to have a deficient rating than other non-Interstate routes.

H.R. 3 provides funding for intermodal connector improvements, creates a new program to fund projects of regional and national significance, and funds the National Corridor Infrastructure Improvement program for regional and multistate corridor projects that will improve mobility and economic growth in areas underserved by existing highway infrastructure.

The bill creates a new program to fund the construction of dedicated truck lanes to improve safety and congestion, and provides funding for the Coordinated Border Infrastructure Program to improve the safe and efficient movement of people and goods at our Mexican and Canadian borders.

H.R. 3 increases investment in transportation infrastructure to levels that will allow states and localities to not only maintain their roads, bridges and transit systems, but also to improve them. This is an investment that is long overdue.

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) is the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.