Senate highway bill includes Warner proposals
U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., on Wednesday joined colleagues in a bipartisan 74-22 vote to adopt the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), which reauthorizes highway, transit, and safety programs for two fiscal years at current funding levels.
The legislation is fully funded and maintains the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund. It also includes several of Sen. Warner’s proposals, including improved federal safety standards for rail transit systems such as Metro, and specific programs that will enhance transit-friendly development.
With over 50% of U.S. roads in disrepair and over 70,000 structurally deficient bridges nationwide, this bill provides $109 billion over two years for much-needed investments in our failing infrastructure. Virginia will receive about $1.025 billion each year under the new legislation, which reflects a slight increase over previous years. Additionally, MAP-21 will protect 1.8 million jobs nationwide and create up to one million additional jobs through expansion of the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program, a loan and loan guarantee program that leverages private sector investment for the construction of additional roads and highways.
“Passing this bill is the right step forward. It contains important reforms and program consolidation while also giving states, localities and the transportation construction industry the certainty they need to plan for the future,” Sen. Warner said. “But make no mistake: we still have a lot of work to do. Infrastructure investment will make us more competitive in the global economy, and we need to make it more of a priority. Moving forward, we need to find a way to actually increase transportation funding while also putting the Highway Trust Fund back in a position of long-term financial sustainability.”
Of particular note, several of Sen. Warner’s specific priorities were included in the legislation:
MAP-21 will, for the first time, establish federal safety standards for transit systems nationwide. Provisions in the bill draw on legislation that Sen. Warner introduced earlier this Congress with Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jim Webb (D-VA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) in response to the fatal 2009 Washington Metro accident. “This legislation will begin to address the troubling gaps in transit safety standards, oversight and enforcement highlighted by the tragic June 2009 Metro accident,” Sen. Warner said.
MAP-21 incorporates bipartisan legislation, first introduced by Sens. Warner and Kirk (R-IL), that directs the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to partner with states and metropolitan areas to develop better performance-based standards to more accurately measure the effectiveness of transportation planning, funding and project management. “Most of our current accountability and performance tools are designed to make sure that individual transportation projects remain on-time and on-budget, and that certainly will continue to be critically important,” Sen. Warner said. “I am pleased that MAP-21 will help us transition toward more modern, performance-based metrics – tools that ultimately will empower federal, state and regional transportation planners and project managers to make smarter decisions and more cost-effective investments.”
The legislation also authorizes $20 million a year for planning grants to allow localities to develop growth plans focused on transit-oriented development based on legislation recently introduced by Sens. Warner and Michael Bennet (D-CO). “Demand for housing near transit in walkable, mixed-use communities is projected to double over the next 20 years, to 15.2 million households by 2030,” Sen. Warner said. “With big projects like Rail to Dulles going in and localities across Virginia looking for smarter and more rational ways to manage grow, these planning grants should help us plan better over the long-term and better serve our commuters, residents and businesses.”