Senate passes transportation bill; House debate next
According to the Huffington Post, on Wednesday afternoon Senate lawmakers passed the much-debated $109 billion, two-year bill to fund transportation infrastructure. The vote to pass was 74 to 22. The current transportation bill expires March 31. If a new bill is not passed, thousands of construction jobs could be put on hold.
According to the Post, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the new measure would save or create 2.8 million jobs.
The pressure now falls on House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the House to scrap its five-year bill and approve the new bill before the deadline.
The measure calls for a number of changes:
- Includes emergency provisions to allow transit agencies to avoid service cuts and fare hikes.
- The bill establishes national policy goals and performance measures for the federal surface transportation program.
- Consolidates programs and streamlines project delivery, while maintaining existing funding levels.
- Extends the commuter benefit for transit users, commensurate with parking benefits for drivers.
- Holds states accountable for the safe upkeep of our roads and bridges.
- Helps communities make plans to meet the growing demand for walkable neighborhoods with access to jobs, services and public transportation.
- Ensures that federal funds streets that are safe and complete for motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, wheelchair users or transit riders.
Meanwhile, American Public Transportation Association CEO Michael Melaniphy issued this statement just hours after Wednesday’s vote:
“On behalf of the 1,500 members of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and the tens of millions of Americans who ride public transit every day, I congratulate the U.S. Senate for passing S. 1813 – the Moving
Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21 Act) — with a resounding bipartisan vote of 74-22. This bill funds both public transportation and highways and extends the dedicated motor fuels taxes that support these transportation programs.
I would like to recognize the following Senators for working in a bi-partisan manner to move this bill through the Senate. They are Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), James M. Inhofe (R-OK), Max Baucus (D-MT), Orin Hatch (R-UT), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX).
Passage of this transportation legislation is important not only to the tens of millions of public transit riders, but to the economic health of this country. Investing in public transportation creates jobs and also gives people access to jobs. Every $1 billion invested in public transportation creates and supports 36,000 jobs. Nearly 60 percent of trips on public transit are taken for work commutes.
Ridership on public transportation in 2011 was 10.4 billion trips — the second highest since 1957. With gas prices continuing to rise even higher than in 2011, it is vital that our country’s public transportation systems have the necessary investment to meet current and growing public demand.
Now we look forward to working with the House of Representatives on its transportation bill. With the extension deadline of March 31 looming, there is still much work to be done in the coming weeks.”