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Transportation Bill Passes House

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Congressman Tom Petri says the transportation bill approved today by the House of Representatives is good for Wisconsin.

"After negotiations with the Senate, this bill holds Wisconsin's share of federal highway funding essentially level with previous years and provides a small increase in 2014. That's much better than the bill the House attempted, but failed, to pass in February," said Petri. "That bill was so unpopular that the House leadership decided not to bring it to the floor for a vote."

"The most important difference is the funding formula," he said. "H.R. 7, the bill I voted against in the Transportation Committee, had a funding formula much to the disadvantage of Wisconsin. Today's bill essentially maintains the favorable formula we have been working with since 2005. We are getting this bill through just in time to avoid disrupting our state's road construction season."

Petri said the legislation will bring $719 million to the state in 2013 and $725 million in 2014.

"Federal highway spending is primarily paid for with federal gasoline taxes. With this bill, our share of federal funds will continue to be a little more than what our drivers send to Wisconsin through the gas tax," Petri said.

The bill also modifies a funding restriction to maintain funding flexibility at the Appleton area's Valley Transit and Green Bay Metro Transit systems.

Funding rules permit federal dollars to be used for transit operating expenses only in Urbanized Areas with populations below 200,000. Areas above the limit can use federal aid only for capital expenses such as transit infrastructure and the purchase of vehicles. With the 2010 census, both the Appleton and Green Bay areas topped the limit, threatening the loss of the ability to use $1.5 million of federal dollars in each system for operating expenses.

Petri, Congressman Reid Ribble and others worked doggedly to save the funding, winning an exception to the rule for small transit systems which operate less than 100 buses during peak hours. Valley Transit and Green Bay Metro Transit each operate fewer than 20 buses at peak times.

"It makes no sense to treat Valley Transit and Green Bay Metro Transit the same as the Chicago and New York City systems. This bill recognizes that," Petri said.

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