On Monday of this past week, the Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee proposed a two-year transportation bill to be funded at current funding levels adjusting for inflation. The bill, called the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (or, MAP-21), consolidates programs, increases state flexibility in the use of federal dollars, creates a new freight-focus national program, expands the TIFIA loan program, streamlines the project review, and approval process, guarantees states will receive back 95 percent of what they pay in transportation taxes, and includes no project earmarks.
To maintain current funding levels, the bill requires $12 billion in new revenue above what the Highway Trust Fund can sustain over the two-year period. There is no proposal yet for where the $12 billion is coming from.
The bill identifies five core programs:
National Highway Performance Program: This program combines the current Interstate Maintenance, National Highway System, and Highway Bridge programs.
Transportation Mobility Program: This program replaces the current Surface Transportation Program, but provides broader flexibility and project eligibility criteria.
National Freight Network Program: The program consolidates existing programs and provides funds to the states by formula for projects that improve regional and national freight movements.
Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ): MAP-21 adds particulate matter as one of the pollutants addressed and requires a performance plan in large metropolitan areas to improve accountability.
Highway Safety Improvement Program: This existing program will see an increase in funds and a requirement that states develop and implement a safety plan.
Other key programs include:
Performance Management: The bill establishes an outcome-driven approach that tracks performance and will hold states and MPOs accountable for improving conditions and performance of transportation assets.
Project Delivery Streamlining: The bill includes reforms to reduce project delivery times and costs.
None of these provisions are a surprise. They have been discussed for a couple of years now. The devil is always in the details, but this sounds pretty good and could help a lot – depending on how the funding situation is eventually sorted out.
Stay tuned – all is still not well in Washington. The House is working on a six-year bill to be introduced before the
end of the calendar year setting up the potential for an epic battle of Super-Bowl proportion in early 2012. Can’t wait to see how this one ends.