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Looks like we might be getting somewhere – just in the nick of time.
The House today approved legislation that will extend federal highway programs through 2014, legislation that also includes a low interest rate on student loans for one year, and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for five years, according to a report from The Hill.
“This bill will provide a major boost to our economy by putting Americans back to work building our nation’s bridges and highways,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica in a written statement after the vote. Mica led the House conferees in reaching agreement with the Senate on the final transportation policy and reform bill.
Now we just need to get the Senate to get its groove on and pass the measure.
After the Senate approves the measure, expected later today, it will go to the President for his signature. An extension of the last transportation law expires tomorrow, June 30.
Talk about taking it down to the wire!
Highlights of the measure’s transportation program reforms, according to Mica, include the following:
Streamlining the Project Delivery Process – Completing a major highway project can take 15 years, but only a fraction of that time involves actual construction. While projects navigate the approval process, construction costs escalate.
This measure streamlines the project approval process, adding much needed common sense and efficiency. Specifically, the measure:
Program Reform & Consolidation – Since the creation of the Highway Trust Fund and the core highway and bridge programs, numerous additional federal programs have been created, diluting the focus of the Trust Fund. Currently there are well over 100 programs. In the last four years, $35 billion in General Fund transfers have been necessary to maintain Highway Trust Fund solvency.
This measure consolidates and eliminates programs, and better focuses limited gas tax revenues on critical needs:
No Earmarks – While the previous surface transportation law contained over 6,300 earmarks, this is the first surface transportation bill in decades that does not contain any earmarks.
Mica continued, “‘Shovel ready’ became a national joke because projects get bogged down for years in the wasteful, bureaucratic project review process. The dramatic reforms in this measure will get projects moving by cutting the red tape that delays projects across the country and drives up construction costs.