Following Friday's passage of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act ("MAP-21"), U.S. Senator Robert Menendez today at Hoboken's NJ Transit Terminal discussed what the final legislation means for New Jersey jobs, public transportation and infrastructure. Menendez, a member of the conference committee which negotiated the final bi-partisan transportation bill, announced that New Jersey has secured more federal funding than ever before, without increasing overall spending, helping to protect or create more than 54,000 New Jersey jobs. Menendez was joined by Councilman David Mello who chairs the City of Hoboken's Committee on Parking and Transportation, Hudson County Freeholder Anthony Romano, and City of Hoboken Councilwoman Theresa Castellano.
"It took years of tough negotiations to be able to stand here today, but I'm incredibly pleased with the outcome of this bill and what it means for New Jersey. This transportation bill is a jobs bill that will give a much-needed boost to our economy, rebuild our roads and bridges, and help make our nation more competitive," said Senator Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Transportation. "This is a significant federal investment in the Garden State and New Jersey residents, commuters, job seekers, small businesses, communities and transit will see these investments pay-off."
Menendez added: "While it came down to the wire, this bi-partisan bill shows what we can accomplish when we focus on the issues that matter most: jobs and our economic recovery."
While Menendez was pleased that so much of the investments he fought for did make their way into the final bi-partisan bill, he expressed disappointment that it did not include several measures that had been part of the original Senate-passed legislation, including: Restoring the full transit tax commuter benefit; Operating flexibility for use of federal funds to keep transit workers employed in hard economic times; sustainable water infrastructure investment; Increased funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund; and Increased funding for pedestrian and bicycle access.
"I am very disappointed that we were not able to provide transit agencies more flexibility to use federal funds to retain workers in hard economic times. I also have concerns about a number of changes to the Senate bill that would have protected the environment, but at the end of the day I support this bill because of the jobs it will create and the expanded transportation investments it will provide New Jersey," said Menendez.
Highlights of the "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act":
Nearly $1 billion per year in highway funding for NJ and over $70 million more per year for transit. By cutting waste and eliminating earmarks, the bill will provide New Jersey more than $506 million federal formula transit funding in FY13 and nearly $514 million in FY14, an increase of more than $70 million per year over current law. This is more federal formula transit funding per year than ever before -- without increased overall federal spending.
Protects or creates nearly 3 million jobs nationwide including protecting more than 54,000 NJ highway and transit jobs.
New standards for highway reflective markers that protects American jobs, worker health and the environment. Each year more than 500 million pounds of glass beads are used on U.S. highways to stripe pavement. Substandard imported glass beads undercut the U.S. domestic beads industry and could eliminate jobs in New Jersey and other states. Studies show that heavy metals in beads manufactured abroad not only expose American workers using the beads to contaminants, the beads can leach toxic substances into surface water and groundwater. The legislation would keep substandard beads off the market by putting a 200 parts per million limit of arsenic or lead in reflective beads.
Extension of Code Section 420 that allows companies to transfer money from over-funded pension funds to fund health insurance, and expand it to include life insurance as well. This amendment will be a useful tool for companies in meeting the health care and benefit needs of workers.
Reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for 5 years, reforming the program in an effort to restore solvency. In addition to providing flood insurance and reducing flood damages through floodplain management regulations, the NFIP identifies and maps the Nation's floodplains. Mapping flood hazards creates broad-based awareness of the flood hazards and provides the data needed for floodplain management programs and to actuarially rate new construction for flood insurance.
New $10 million transit oriented development planning program. The program will help communities create more livable communities by planning new development around new transit hubs. The provision is based on similar language in Senator Menendez's Livable Communities Act, and in New Jersey would work in tandem with the state's Transit Village program.
Increased funding for the National Transit Institute at Rutgers (NTI) [$5million]. NTI provides training, education, and clearinghouse services in support of public transportation and quality of life for the entire nation. In recent years this important national program has seen its funding slashed, despite the increased need for training in the face of an ongoing wave of retirements in the industry. This bill will raise NTI's funding to $5 million per year from $3.8 million.
Streamlined and reformed "New Starts" process. The bill streamlines the process for the federal approval of new projects and allows projects designed to increase capacity on existing systems rather than just allow new systems or new lines. Older systems such as New Jersey's that are at capacity could, for instance, use the program to add a new station or add another track.