President Obama on July 6 signed into law a combined transportation, student loan and flood insurance bill at a White House event.
The House and Senate on June 29 passed a new two-year $105 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), the AASHTO Journal reports. The measure, H.R. 4348, passed the House 373-52, just before the June 30 expiration of the ninth extension of SAFETEA-LU. The Senate passed the bill 74-19, according to the AASHTO Journal report.
U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, however, isn’t doing the happy dance now that the bill has been signed into law.
Following action on the major bipartisan transportation reform bill, Mica released a statement noting his “disappointment” that the only part he says that Obama and his Administration played in passing the bill was an “elaborate bill signing ceremony.”
“In fact for two years the President and his party controlled the White House and the Congress, with significant majorities in both the House and Senate, and failed to enact transportation legislation,” Mica said in a statement. “On June 17, 2009, the Obama Administration intervened and stopped in its tracks a six-year transportation proposal and opted for an 18-month extension of the expiring law. That delay led to a number of stop-gap measures being passed by Congress, ensuring that only small projects would be undertaken resulting in short-term employment.”
“Today’s White House showcase ceremony is small consolation to thousands of projects and workers that were then left behind, because reforms that would have truly helped make projects ‘shovel-ready’ were not put in place until today’s enactment of those necessary reforms,” Mica added.
“The bill becoming law today is the result of strong bipartisan and bicameral work by a number of my House and Senate colleagues,” he continued. “Fortunately through their work and efforts, thousands of projects will not be closed down next week, and hundreds of thousands of workers will not receive pink slips. Unfortunately the President and his Administration are today trying to mask their lack of leadership with a backdrop of construction workers and students.”
Pete Ruane, president and CEO of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) says that both Republicans and Democrats deserve a lot of credit for the new surface transportation law, pointing out that the law is going to restore public confidence in the federal highway and transit investment program.
“This wasn’t business as usual, just ‘rearranging the deck chairs,’ adding pet programs and throwing money at congressional earmarks,” Ruane said in a written statement. “The new law is truly a ‘good government’ measure that makes the significant program reforms necessary to set the stage for meaningful, transparent and accountable federal transportation investments in the future.”
Ruane says that instead of having Congressional earmarks, the law focuses federal dollars “on meeting critical national needs like efficient freight movement and driving down the number of motor vehicle crashes that result in unnecessary American deaths and injuries.
“It eliminates, consolidates or streamlines dozens of programs, giving state and local governments more decision-making control,” Ruane added in the press statement. “It opens the door to more private investment in large, congestion-busting transportation projects. And, most importantly, it ushers in performance standards and reporting requirements so that the public will now know how their federal transportation dollars are being used and what kind of return on investment they are receiving.”