Today, U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., voted in favor of the Transportation Conference Report, which provides Louisiana $731 million in fiscal year 2012 and $744 million in fiscal year 2013 to repair our roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure. The bill also includes the RESTORE Act, legislation introduced by Sen. Landrieu to dedicate 80 percent of BP penalties paid under the Clean Water Act to Gulf States to restore coastal ecosystems and rebuild local economies damaged by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This legislation passed the House and Senate today and is expected to be signed into law by the President shortly.
"This is a historic moment for our region. The Gulf Coast states and our coastal residents and businesses should be very proud of Congressional action today. The RESTORE Act directs that 80 percent of the penalty money be invested along the Gulf Coast where the injury occurred when the Deepwater Horizon blew up more than two years ago. These funds will help jumpstart, in a significant way, coastal restoration in Louisiana. We have the science, the plan and the will, and all we needed was the money ¬-- let's get started," Sen. Landrieu said. "We are particularly grateful to Sen. Barbara Boxer for her leadership and tireless advocacy, without which this bill would never have been possible. We are also thankful for the commitment and support of a broad range of environmental, wildlife and business groups throughout the Gulf.
"In addition to RESTORE, the transportation bill will jumpstart 420 projects in our state, getting our engineers and construction workers back on the job building our highways, maintaining our roads, and operating our mass transit," Sen. Landrieu said.
Sen. Landrieu also said she was pleased that the bill acknowledges the importance of fully investing in our ports and waterways. However she said she will continue to work to pass the full Harbor Maintenance Act, known in the House as the Realize America's Maritime Promise (RAMP) Act, which states that funds in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) should be utilized for the intended purpose of dredging and maintaining coastal ports, harbors and waterways. The Harbor Maintenance Tax collects $1.3 to $1.6 billion annually.
"I commend Congressman Charles Boustany for his leadership on the RAMP Act and for his work securing language in the transportation bill acknowledging Congress' support for fully investing in our ports and waterways. The RAMP Act is extremely important for the proper maintenance of Louisiana's ports, which are crucial for our trade and economic growth. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will continue working toward fully utilizing Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund dollars for their intended purpose," Sen. Landrieu said.
Louisiana Funding Included in Transportation Bill:
* $51.82 million in FY 2012 and $57.9 million in FY2013 in Transit Funding
* $679.8 million in FY 2012 and $685.6 million in FY2013 in Highway Funding
* Will preserve approximately 26,700 construction jobs in Louisiana
* Green-lights approximately 420 projects throughout the state
* Gives local governments more flexibility on how they spend Smart Growth-type projects
The Conference Report also:
Streamlines Environmental Reviews
* Contains a hard-fought compromise on project streamlining that will protect the environment and expedite project delivery. Projects would still have to meet rigorous standards for approval, but would have to meet them in only seven years as opposed to 15.
Preserves Mass Transit and Amtrak
* Staves off attempts to eliminate the Mass Transit Account in the Highway Trust Fund and preserves the existing funding formula. Senate Democrats were able to preserve the funding level reached in the bipartisan Senate bill that would authorize roughly $8.4 billion annually.
* Reduces the number of programs by two thirds; eliminated or consolidated those that are duplicative or don't serve a national transportation goal.
Preserves Smart Growth Initiatives
* Current law sets aside 10 percent of one category of funding to states, called the Surface Transportation Program, for enhancements. This legislation provides half of that money to local Metropolitan Planning Organizations for such projects. States could still use the other half for those kinds of projects, but they would have the flexibility to spend it on other transportation priorities instead.
* Protects an amendment that Senator Landrieu secured, which creates standards for bridge and tunnel inspections and enables the Department of Transportation (DOT) to withhold money if a state's highway, bridges and tunnels don't meet a certain standard.
* Establishes a Pilot Program for Transit-Oriented Development funded at $20 million. This provides grants to communities with a New Starts grant to do station area planning.
* Mandates the installation of electronic recorders, to help enforce a recently issued DOT anti-fatigue rule.
* In the wake of a deadly Metro crash and other transit accidents, the bill creates a national public transportation safety program
* The bill also establishes a system that monitors public transportation assets and an emergency relief program for damaged or endangered public transit.
* Establishes funding to examine the effect of hands-free gadgets in cars and in-vehicle technology to prevent drunk driving.