Issue Position: Transportation
Montana is a highway state and our jobs, economy, and way of life depends on a strong transportation infrastructure. Having served, over the years, as Chairman and ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee anA Traind its Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure, I have had the opportunity to shape national transportation policy and provide our state with the necessary programs and funding to improve all areas of Montana's transportation system.
I was one of the key authors of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, commonly called the highway bill. This bill will bring more than $2.3 billion to Montana for highway construction projects and will help create and keep more than 18,000 good-paying jobs per year in the state. The bill represents a 44 percent increase for Montana over the last highway bill. These funds will help make the state's roads safer, create jobs, and boost Montana's economy.
I'll also continue to stand up for improved and expanded transportation options for Montana, including ensuring that Amtrak's Empire Builder route remains open and that Montanans have access to affordable, reliable, and available air service.
My Work for Montana's Transportation: Highways, Railways and Aviation
A TrainIn 2001 and 2002, I was proud to help secure $2 million to study expansion and improvement of U.S. Highway 2, the major highway that runs along the Hi-Line and links northern Montana to North Dakota and Idaho. This additional funding will help to make Highway 2 a safer place to travel and bring more economic development to Montana.
This Congress, I strongly supported legislation to assist the nation's airports that suffered as a result of September 11. The package included significant funding for Essential Air Service (EAS) airlines that serve rural communities across the country and Montana. EAS, which channels funds directly to airlines to provide air service to small communities that otherwise would not receive air service, helps seven Montana airports: Glasgow, Glendive, Havre, Lewistown, Miles City, Sidney, and Wolf Point. Additionally, I helped to craft the aviation security bill that will help to increase both safety and security at all airports.
Keeping Amtrak in Montana is an issue that's very important to me. I'll continue to work together to ensure that Amtrak receives the assistance it needs to keep the Empire Builder running. I'm also a cosponsor of the National Defense Interstate Rail Act, which would provide funding for Amtrak operating expenses and fund Amtrak Security. More than $360 million would be provided for operating costs of long-distance train service, with an additional $22 million dedicated for various long-distance capital improvements. In addition, $270 million is provided for Amtrak's lines under 750 miles.
Current and Upcoming Transportation Issues in Congress
The back of a truck on highwayAs top Democrat of the Senate Finance Committee and a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I will be in a unique position to shape the next Highway bill. As Congress moves forward with the new highway bill, I'll work hard to protect the programs that were started under TEA-21. It's vital that we pass a strong highway bill to help boost our economy, create more jobs, and strengthen our transportation system.
Protecting the Highway Trust Fund and the Airports and Airways Trust Fund: Congress will be looking at the revenue projections for the trust funds over the next decade, as well as ways to sustain and strengthen our highway and aviation programs. It's important that we have strong trust funds in place and that those funds are spent only in the programs that they are intended for.
As top Democrat of the Senate Finance Committee, I'll continue to search for innovative transportation financing ideas. Congress will look at various financing methods, such as tax credits and tax exempt bonds, that can be used to supplement gas tax receipts to pay for highway, aviation, and transit projects.
Biofuels: Biofuels are an exciting energy source for Montanans. Montana can play an important role in a national energy portfolio through biofuel and cellulosic ethanol production using switchgrass, camelina, forest products, and agricultural byproducts. Clean, renewable, domestic fuel products will lessen our current dependence on foreign fossil fuels, and put money in the pockets of farmers and ranchers.
As Chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, I am looking forward to leading the charge to encourage biofuel technology development and implementation. Tax incentives and financing assistance, in part, will help spur that development and work to ensure that Montanans play a role in and benefit from the growing biofuel industry.
Fuel Prices: The rising price of fuel is hurting Montana families. Though the short-term forecast is difficult, long-term energy solutions are promising for our state. The answer to the current price spike lies in increasing our national energy supply. Research, development, and the implementation of refining technology are under way for a wide variety of cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel, and coal-to-liquid fuel technologies. These technologies will all put to use resources that Montana has in abundance, and will allow the Treasure State to live up to its name and play an important role in the national energy portfolio.
In the short term, incentives must be put in place for conservation and for energy efficiency. As Chairman and Ranking Member of the Finance Committee, I have worked on and will continue to emphasize the importance of those points in writing tax incentives for hybrid vehicles, green building, and high energy-efficiency standards.
Clean Coal Technology: The U.S. has the largest recoverable coal reserves in the world275 billion tonsand Montana holds over 119 billion tons alone. Weaning the U.S. off its addiction to oil will depend on developing a number of our natural and renewable resources. Coal liquefaction is one of the most promising avenues. Full development of the U.S. coal to fuels industry could replace imported oil with low emissions diesel made from Montana coal. That is why I have authored and successfully passed tax credits and loan guarantees for coal to liquids plants and coal fired power plants that use the most cutting edge technology to significantly reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and other emissions that contribute to global warming.