House Moves Technical Fixes to Highways and Transit Law
A bill to make technical corrections to the law authorizing federal highways and transit programs was approved in the U.S. House of Representatives today.
The bill, H.R. 3248, makes technical changes, corrects drafting errors, and clarifies provisions of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, or SAFETEA-LU (P.L. 109-59), to ensure that the law is carried out according to Congressional intent. The bill passed by a vote of 422 to 1.
The bill represents a bipartisan, bicameral agreement between the leadership of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the House, and the three committees of jurisdiction in the Senate.
"This is the fourth time we have brought this bill to the House floor in the past 18 months," said U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), Republican Leader of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. "It is imperative we pass this legislation. Once the President signs this bill, SAFETEA-LU will finally be able to accomplish what Congress voted it to do over two years ago.
"It is important to note that this bill does not make substantial policy changes to SAFETEA-LU. Rather, this bill corrects provisions that were not workable by the states or the U.S. Department of Transportation."
Mica went on to point out one technical correction that was not included in the bill. "SAFETEA-LU inadvertently changed certain regulations for trucks with a gross vehicle weight of less than 10,000 pounds," said Mica. "When Congress passed SAFETEA-LU, this change was not a policy change Congress knew about or intended to make. This change has had very serious consequences, especially for small businesses.
"I had hoped to include this technical fix, however some groups who have benefited from this error have prevented us from doing so. It is unfortunate a policy change that no Member anticipated or voted on will not be corrected in this bill," Mica concluded.
"The provisions included in this bill have been identified by the Department of Transportation and state DOTs as necessary to carry out the intent of SAFETEA-LU," said U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN), Highways and Transit Subcommittee Ranking Republican.
"The most important correction we are making is to strengthen the Federal Highway research program by ensuring the continuation of the legacy research programs carried out by the Department of Transportation," Duncan said.
Among the fixes and clarifications contained in the bill is a provision to recapture critical research funds for transportation research programs. A calculation error in SAFETEA-LU led to lower than intended levels for programs such as the Future Strategic Highway Research Program, the University Transportation Research Program, and the biennial state-of-transportation Conditions and Performance Report.
The bill also extends the deadline for the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, the panel created under SAFETEA-LU to examine solutions to financing highways and transit infrastructure in the future.
The amount of annual transportation spending and outlays for 2005 through 2009 will not change as a result of the bill.