Today the House of Representatives and the United States Senate passed the conference report on H.R. 4348, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act. This bipartisan, bicameral transportation bill includes unprecedented reforms to cut federal red rape and bureaucracy, streamline the project delivery process, and ensure that states have more flexibility to focus funding on their most critical needs. The measure now heads to the White House for the President's signature to become law.
"Transportation is essential to our nation's competitiveness and economy. Highways are the veins and arteries of our economy through which commerce flows," said Congressman Bill Shuster.
"The critical reforms we have achieved will ensure that we can move forward with transportation projects more efficiently, saving both time and money. It is also vital that we have provided much needed certainty to States and employers to take on major projects that can improve our competitiveness and spur investment and job creation."
The measure funds federal highway, transit and highway safety programs at current funding levels through the end of fiscal year 2014 for states to plan and undertake major transportation improvements.
Highlights of the conference report include:
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:
- Sets Deadlines: For slow-moving projects, the Secretary must set deadlines to make sure all approvals occur within 4 years, or agencies lose funding through an automatic rescission.
- Sets NEPA Funding Threshold: Mandates a rulemaking to classify projects with a small amount of federal funding ($5 million) as a categorical exclusion.
- Expedites Projects in the Right of Way: Mandates a rulemaking for classifying projects within an existing "operational right of way" as a categorical exclusion.
- Expedites Projects Destroyed by Disaster: Mandates a rulemaking to classify projects being rebuilt after a disaster as a categorical exclusion.
- State Law Standing in for Federal Law: Requires a study on which state laws provide the same level of protection as federal law.
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 away from critical need. This measure consolidates and eliminates programs, and better focuses funds on critical needs:
- Consolidates the number of surface transportation programs by two-thirds.
- Eliminates dozens of programs and makes more resources available with flexibility to states and metropolitan areas.
- Incentivizes, rather than penalizes, states to partner with the private sector to finance and operate transportation projects.
Improves Safety -- The measure includes provisions to strengthen highway and motor carrier safety programs. The legislation consolidates National Highway Traffic Safety Administration incentive grant programs, and increases funding flexibility for states that qualify for safety incentive grants. The measure also improves motor carrier safety in a balanced fashion that does not over-regulate the industry.
Excludes Senate Re-Regulation of Railroads -- The measure does not include the proposed Senate rail title due to House opposition to provisions that stifle private sector competition in passenger and commuter rail service and provisions laying the groundwork for re-regulation of the rail industry.
Hazmat Safety -- The measure reauthorizes the Department of Transportation's hazardous materials safety programs, secures reforms to the hazmat special permits and approvals program, and removes burdensome statutory changes. The legislation also bans proposed wetlines regulation until the Government Accountability Office can analyze costs and benefits.