Today, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano voted in favor of H.R. 4348, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, a long overdue jobs bill that would continue to fund essential highway construction, highway safety, and transit programs through September 2014. The bill also kept interest rates on federally subsidized student loans from doubling on July 1. H.R. 4348 ultimately passed by a vote of 373-52.
"While it is not quite the bill we were hoping for," Napolitano said. "This will keep the economy moving and create the new jobs and transportation projects we need."
Napolitano was pleased that the bill continues to provide federal funding of transit and that Congress removed a controversial Republican provision that would have gutted transit funding. Also, because of Napolitano's work as a leader on rail issues in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, H.R. 4348 does not include detrimental changes to passenger rail safety and Positive Train Control (PTC) implementation. The original draft of the bill would have delayed and weakened PTC safety measures that were put into place following the 2008 Metrolink tragedy.
Additionally, H.R. 4348 includes an extension of the California NEPA-CEQA Environmental Streamlining Program, which Napolitano advocated for on behalf of Caltrans. This program will speed up transportation projects and lower project costs because it will relieve California of the burden of performing a full NEPA review when the more stringent CEQA review has already been done.
Another critical component of H.R. 4348 is a major increase in the Transportation Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act (TIFIA) loans that will help implement Measure R Transit projects in the Los Angeles area in 10 years instead of the proposed 30 years.
Included in H.R. 4348, Congress acted to continue the 3.4% interest rate on student loans for another year. Without action, the loan rates for over 570,000 college students from California would have doubled.
"Education is critical to ensure the continued success of our nation," Napolitano said. "College education must be affordable and accessible to everyone."
Napolitano is a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.