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Statement on the release of the Senate’s long-term transportation reauthorization proposal

Senate EPW bill represents progress toward passage of a long-term bill and a good starting point for debate and improvements.

James Corless, director of Transportation for America, issued this statement in response to today’s release of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act to reauthorize the federal transportation program:

“First, I want to thank Senator Inhofe (R-OK) and Senator Boxer (D-CA) for their work in getting a long-term transportation bill moving forward in Congress ahead of the July 31st expiration of the current program. Local communities desperately need the stable, dependable funding provided by a multi-year bill.

The DRIVE Act takes several important steps to address gaps and build on policies adopted in MAP-21. For one, it increases the share of funding directly provided to local communities through the Surface Transportation Program and the Transportation Alternatives Program. It takes steps to help communities become more resilient in the face of natural disasters and a changing climate. It opens up low-interest financing to support smart economic development along public transit lines, and lowers the cost thresholds to help local communities qualify for low-cost federal TIFIA loans. And it would ensure all modes of transportation are accounted for in the design of highway projects.

While this bill provides a positive starting point, there are other areas where Congress can and should do better.

The next surface transportation authorization should improve transparency and accountability, and focus on how we pick transportation projects and measure the success of those investments. The new freight program and the major projects competitive grant provision should be broadened to allow multimodal projects to be eligible. And more emphasis must be placed on investments that promote access to jobs and economic opportunity for working Americans, particularly those that are struggling the most to make ends meet.

The bill should also do more to provide communities of all sizes with greater access to the resources they need to support economic prosperity and competitiveness. The Innovation In Surface Transportation Act, introduced by Senators Wicker (R-MS) and Booker (D-NJ) earlier this year, would be a great place to start. That bill, to be considered as an amendment during committee markup, would create a competitive transportation grant program in each state, allowing communities to compete for a larger share of federal funding on the merits — incentivizing innovation and rewarding smart decision-making and efficiency.

We recognize that this legislation is just the first step in a longer process. The DRIVE Act serves as a positive beginning for further work as it progresses through the Senate and is joined by the work of the other Committees. We appreciate the efforts of Senators Inhofe and Boxer to advance a long-term transportation bill that begins addressing the need to strengthen local economies through smart investments in infrastructure. We applaud them for their work to advance a long-term transportation program, and we are committed to working with them toward that goal.”

Members can read our full summary of the EPW bill below.

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