By Lauren Schapker, vice president of legislative affairs, ARTBA
The Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee took some bipartisan first steps toward reauthorizing the nation’s surface transportation programs before the current law expires Sept. 30. The committee hopes to agree on a package by Memorial Day, leaving the summer months for the full Senate and House to pass a bill.
“The American people are counting on us to make this happen,” EPW Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) said during a Feb. 24 hearing. “They don’t want to hear us talking about what needs to be done. They want us to work together and get it done.”
While EPW Republicans and Democrats shared enthusiasm about passing a bill, differences emerged on the size and scope of the legislation. Bipartisan support “will not extend to a multi-trillion dollar package that is stocked full with ideologically driven, one-size-fits-all policies that tie the hands of states and communities,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the ranking Republican.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), Denver Mayor Michael Handcock (D), and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) President Victoria Sheehan testified about the power of infrastructure investment to fuel economic recovery, but only if long-term investment and funding certainty is provided. The governors and Sheehan emphasized the importance of program flexibility for state transportation departments. They want states to receive direct funding rather than the U.S. Department of Transportation selecting projects through discretionary grants.
ARTBA will continue to work with allies to build support for passage of a long-term surface transportation bill.