Democratic senators call for shorter highway bill in order to maximize funding

Updated Nov 23, 2015

RoadToCapitol-BetterRoadsA group of 26 Democratic senators have sent a letter to the bicameral conference committee currently working on a highway bill, calling for a shorter bill in order to provide more funding.

Sens. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Tom Carper (D-Delaware) led the group of Democrats in the push for greater investment in the country’s infrastructure. The letter said that Congress should shorten the authorization period of the bill in order spend more money annually on transportation projects.

“As you begin conference negotiations to reconcile House and Senate proposals for a multi-year surface transportation reauthorization bill, we urge you to consider the urgent need for an increase in infrastructure investment around the country, and report a final proposal that can best address these needs by maximizing annual investment levels for all surface transportation programs over a shorter authorization period,” the senators wrote in the letter. â€śâ€¦ While the proposed Senate investment levels exceed baseline funding, they would still only be sufficient to cover expected increases in construction materials costs. These funding levels are certainly insufficient to rebuild and modernize our nation’s transportation infrastructure.”

The conference committee with senators and members of the House of Representatives met publicly Wednesday for the first time to try to hammer out a bill following the 36th short-term patch since 2005. Both the House and the Senate passed six-year plans – the House’s STRR Act earlier this month and the Senate’s DRIVE Act in June – but Democrats in the letter said shortening that period would allow Congress to maximize the annual investment levels.

“Both the House and Senate versions of the legislation contain numerous policy reforms that will help to address America’s infrastructure challenges. However, no set of policy reforms can substitute for what is truly needed to make significant progress toward rebuilding and modernizing our nation’s infrastructure: funding,” the letter said. “… With all this in mind, we strongly urge you to finalize a surface transportation conference report that can provide the maximum amount of benefits to American families and businesses by prioritizing increased investment for all surface transportation programs over the length of the authorization.”