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Senate Committee Plans Vote on Highway Bill

October 21, 2011

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The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee plans to debate and vote on its two-year surface transportation bill Nov. 9. The committee's strategy is to produce a two-year measure funded at current levels, plus inflation. This will require about $12 billion more than will be available from the Highway Trust Fund, a difference that Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., a member of EPW and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has said he believes can be found.
The Cooper River Bridge project in South Carolina is an example of a project supported by the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation program, for which the bill would boost funding.
The Cooper River Bridge project in South Carolina is an example of a project supported by the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation program, for which the bill would boost funding.


The committee's bill, called Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP 21), consolidates a number of highway funding programs. For instance, it would merge the Interstate Maintenance, National Highway System and part of the Highway Bridge programs into one program that focuses on the most critical stretches of road.

It would boost funding for the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation program from $122 million to $1 billion a year. TIFIA leverages federal money by providing loans, loan guarantees and lines of credit to pay for highway projects of national and regional significance.

The bill also includes a specific program for freight, providing funds to states to improve cargo movement and intermodal connectors.

To improve project delivery, a weakness of the current highway program, the bill would expand innovative contracting methods, create dispute resolution procedures and allow for early acquisition of rights of way.

If the schedule holds, EPW will be the first congressional committee out of the chute with a detailed proposal for the long-postponed legislation. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee aims to produce a six-year bill funded at current levels, but has not yet set a date for a vote.

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