States praise Congress for passing long-term highway bill

RoadToCapitol-BetterRoadsWhen Congress passed the first national long-term highway bill in a decade last week, it was a huge relief to state officials across the U.S. The constant uncertainty with patch after patch made planning for transportation projects difficult because state DOTs didn’t know if and how much money they might be getting from the federal government.

Now that the FAST Act is law, states across the country are taking the time to thank lawmakers for finally passing a bill, even if it did take 10 years and countless failed plans.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a statement praising the bill and commending the lawmakers from the state who helped draft the bill and get it on the president’s desk – Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Reps. John Katko (R-New York) and Jerrold Nadler (D-New York).

“The expected passage of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act is tremendous news for New York State. From helping to rebuild outdated bridges in Upstate New York to preventing massive funding cuts that would have hurt millions of public transit riders, this bill provides important support to our State’s infrastructure,” Cuomo said. “And with more stable and long term funding than New York has seen in previous years, it is an important investment in the Empire State’s future.”

In New York’s eastern neighbor Connecticut, the Hartford Courant reported that Transportation Commissioner James Redeker echoed the common reaction from states after the bill was passed: relief that there will be stability.

“This gives us predictability that we haven’t had,” Redeker said. “We’re very optimistic. This is good news.”

Sen. James Inhoff (R-Oklahoma) was one of the prime forces driving to get the highway bill passed this year going back to his involvement and support of the Senate’s initial highway bill, the DRIVE Act. His home state’s transportation leaders said the FAST Act was vital to Oklahoma’s future and helps. Considering the time it took to get a long-term bill passed, Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Gary Ridley didn’t hold back in expressing the significance of the bill.

“This is a historic piece of legislation that will continue the progress made on highways and bridges in Oklahoma,” Ridley said. “We are very grateful to Oklahoma’s congressional delegation and especially Senator Inhofe for his steadfast support for transportation over the years and his hard work in shepherding this bill through Congress.”

The Oregon Department of Transportation, too, singled out a lawmaker who has helped lead the charge in the conference committee, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon). DeFazio also was a co-author of the House’s initial version of the highway bill.

“I would like to thank all members of Oregon’s congressional delegation for their votes in favor of FAST Act,” ODOT Director Matthew Garrett said. “In particular, I thank Congressman Peter DeFazio for the incredible work he has done on behalf of Oregonians on this bill. Oregon will receive $325 million more over the next five years than we would have if Congressman DeFazio had not been in a continuous position of leadership on transportation policy in Washington, DC. I would also like to thank Senator Ron Wyden for his hard work on the final agreement.”

ODOT’s Office of Innovative Partnerships and Alternative Funding director Jim Whitty also made a point to praise the DRIVE Act’s grant program aimed at finding alternative funding method to the gas tax. Whitty said the grant program show’s Congress recognizes the value of a road usage charge like the OReGO program the state began testing this year.