Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), the Ranking Member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, today made the following statement on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee's six-year, $265 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill, released earlier this week.
"Even though the Senate's surface transportation bill falls short of the president's spending level, I am encouraged that the bipartisan leadership of the Environmental and Public Works Committee has taken a major step by proposing a long-term bill, rather than another short-term bill, as we in the subcommittee move to write a surface transportation bill. Two-year bills, like MAP-21, leave states and localities unable to make investments in their major needs, such as bridge rehabilitation and construction and new buses and subway cars to replace old and unsafe vehicles. I also applaud the Senate bill's focus on freight through the creation of a formula-based program that is essential to help states move freight more efficiently and effectively at reduced cost to businesses and consumers, as well as new funds for projects of national and regional significance, such as beltway systems and intermodal facilities.
"The Senate bill is a good first step, but it pointedly demonstrates the challenges we face in developing a long-term bill, especially with no ongoing discussion of how to pay for the coming reauthorization. That, of course, is the jurisdiction of the Senate Finance Committee, not the Environment and Public Works Committee, which has done its part of the job in time to pass a bill before funds for MAP-21 run out at the end of July. In the last the Congress, MAP-21 started with the Senate authorizing bill. This time, I hope the 2014 Senate bill will encourage the finance committees to meet the funding challenges, but the Senate reauthorization also points up the challenges of a bill for highways, bridges and transit because the bill is constrained to baseline funding levels. We simply cannot continue our neglect of the infrastructure system created by Eisenhower's Interstate Highway System without losing much of the value of our investments during the past 60 years. Necessary and significant increases in investment levels would do double duty because investments in the surface transportation network is the best way to stimulate the economy and generate jobs following a recession."