Congressman Mark S. Critz (PA-12) announced today that the House of Representatives has passed the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012 (H.R. 4348) -- a two-year transportation bill that also includes provisions to prevent student loan rates from doubling on July 1, 2012.
"I'm thrilled that after nearly three years, we finally have a new transportation bill to provide certainty for state and local governments, to boost American manufacturers and construction workers, and to protect and create three million American jobs while investing in our economic future," said Congressman Critz. "While not perfect, this bipartisan bill will invest in our nation's infrastructure by authorizing highway and transit programs for more than two years."
The legislation also repeals a 2005 transportation bill provision that restricted the use of toll credits as part of the non-federal funding for the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS). This meant that dozens of highway construction projects throughout the Appalachian region -- projects like the completion of US 219 from Somerset to I-68 -- were stopped because of this language. Today's House-passed bill not only repeals this language but also allows the federal share of funding on ADHS projects to be 100 percent.
"With today's legislation, the long-awaited upgrade of US 219 to a four-lane highway between Somerset and I-68 in Maryland will move forward," added Congressman Critz, who testified last year on the issue of toll credits. "This is terrific news for our region and for our continued efforts to attract jobs and economic development to western Pennsylvania."
The transportation bill also includes a provision to extend the current 3.4 percent loan rate on need-based student loans through July 1, 2013. Under current law, the rate would have doubled to 6.8 percent on July 1, 2012.
"At a time of ever-increasing education costs, and the challenging job market graduates face, we cannot let interest rates on federal Stafford loans double after July 1st," said Congressman Critz, who cosponsored legislation earlier this year to prevent this increase. "Keeping student loan interest rates at 3.4 percent is the right decision to make because it will prevent over seven million college students and their families from borrowing thousands of extra dollars to pay for school."