In a letter, Congressman Charles F. Bass (NH-02) and four Republican and Democratic colleagues today urged House Leadership to reconcile any differences and take up the House-version of the Senate Highway Bill (S. 1813, the Mobility, Access and Progress for the 21st Century Act, or MAP-21). With the current transportation authorization set to expire on March 31st, the House is expected to vote later today on a short-term bill that will extend the reauthorization for 90 days until June 30th.
"Our nation needs a responsible, effective plan to reauthorize important transportation and infrastructure projects, which are vital to strengthening our economy and ensuring the safety of our highways. House passage of a long-term surface transportation reauthorization would provide the transportation stakeholder community with at least two years of certainty for funding and policies that will allow states and local communities to advance critical infrastructure projects. In New Hampshire, this means that the state could borrow $155 million for the much-needed widening of I-93.
"While the Senate bill is not perfect, and more work can be done to ensure the fiscal solvency of the transportation fund, Granite Staters expect and deserve a bipartisan solution to this stalemate. We can't continue to expect our state and contractors to plan and execute projects in the face of such uncertainty."
New Hampshire Department of Transportation Commissioner Chris Clement said, "Final passage of a Surface Transportation Reauthorization bill similar to the version passed in the U.S. Senate would be good news for Granite Staters and the users of NH's transportation systems. The NH Department of Transportation is committed to building and maintaining transportation infrastructure that is safe, reliable, and an asset for economic development in New Hampshire and our communities. This is especially important for the state's efforts to finish the I-93 Improvements Project which currently needs $250 million in additional funding to complete the work that has already been started."
State Senator Jim Rausch, Chairman of the Transportation Committee, said, "I applaud Congressman Bass' leadership in calling for a long-term transportation reauthorization in the House. New Hampshire must have a long-term federal funding solution in order to complete our ten-year transportation plan. Reaching a bipartisan agreement will enable the widening of I-93 -- a vital economic thoroughfare -- to move forward, alleviate the traffic congestion in Windham, Derry, and surrounding communities, and make this roadway safer for all motorists. As the federal process moves forward, it is also critical that any final agreement maintain at least level funding to ensure continuity of our operations."
State Representative Carl Seidel of Nashua, the Vice-Chair of the House Public Works and Highways Committee, said, "The state of New Hampshire relies on the long term commitment of the federal government to fund transportation and infrastructure programs. We have a 10-year program for New Hampshire that depends on the federal commitment. MAP-21 will provide some of the needed funds for that program, although I personally would have preferred a deeper cut in federal spending in other areas."
Darren Benoit, P.E., and Government Relations Chairman of the American Society of Civil Engineers -- New Hampshire, said, "Passage of a Surface Transportation Bill in the 112th Congress is absolutely critical to the economic recovery of New Hampshire. In addition to creating jobs in the construction industry, this will provide our leaders the needed confidence to push forward with the I-93 widening from the Massachusetts border to Manchester and ultimately send a clear message to private investors that New Hampshire is open for business!"
The text of the letter Bass signed to House Leadership is below:
March 26, 2012
Dear Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Cantor, Minority Leader Pelosi, and Minority Whip Hoyer:
As you know, providing authorization for transportation and infrastructure projects is a core function of the government. With the current transportation bill set to expire on March 31, 2012, we write to emphasize the importance of the House taking action to immediately provide some certainty in the transportation sector.
The last major transportation bill expired September 30, 2009, and since then Congress has been unable to put in place a long-term reauthorization of the Surface Transportation bill. This lack of certainty has hampered state transportation departments' ability to commit to long-term transportation projects, which has impeded the ability of local governments to adequately plan for their community's transportation needs. Additionally, this has increased instability within the construction industry.
The Senate recently passed the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, known commonly as MAP-21. While by no means perfect, this legislation passed unanimously out of committee, and received significant bipartisan support on the Senate floor with 74 votes. While we believe that a longer term bill is ideal, the Senate bill would provide the transportation stakeholder community with two years of certain funding and policies that will allow state Departments of Transportation and other transportation agencies to embark on the work necessary to keep American goods and people moving. Providing this certainty as soon as possible is particularly important in colder weather climates, where the construction season is short and just beginning for 2012.
With no indication that an alternate longer-term bill will be brought to the House floor by March 31, 2012, we urge the House to reconcile any potential blue slip procedural issues and take up the House-version of S. 1813, the Mobility, Access and Progress for the 21st century. Transportation is a priority for all Americans. Our constituents deserve to see Congress act swiftly and in a bipartisan way on this important issue.
Robert J. Dold (R-IL-10)
Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03)
Charles F. Bass (R-NH-02)
Mike Quigley (D-IL-05)
Judy Biggert (R-IL-13)
Rick Larsen (D-WA-02)