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Transportation infrastructure bill clears Senate committee

Bipartisan bill represents 27% increase over highway funding authorized last infrastructure bill.

The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee this week unveiled the America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (ATIA), which authorizes $287 billion in funding from the Highway Trust Fund for the nation’s surface transportation programs over the next five years. The legislation, which was unanimously advanced out of committee, includes provisions to improve road safety, streamline project delivery, protect the environment and grow the economy.

ATIA represents a 27% increase over the highway funding previously authorized under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.

Provisions in the bill allows states to use federal highway funding for lock and dam modernization and rehabilitation projects to address aging and inadequate water infrastructure that threatens the viability of farmers, manufacturers, shippers and other stakeholders.

National Association of Counties executive director Matthew Chase noted that counties own and operate the largest share of the nation’s roads and 40% of all public bridges.

“This legislation would help us serve our residents in a number of ways, including maintaining off-system bridges, streamlining unnecessarily burdensome federal regulations and creating new grant programs for bridges, safety and resilience,” Chase said.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R., Iowa) said her bipartisan legislation, the COMMUTE (Connecting Opportunities through Mobility Metrics & Unlocking Transportation Efficiencies) Act, was included in the final package. This provision establishes a competitive grant program at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to develop and provide states, metropolitan planning organizations and rural planning organizations with accessibility data for use in transportation planning efforts.

Ernst successfully included in the bill her own legislation to help address mobility challenges in rural areas -- a provision that gives states the option to use federal highway funding for lock and dam rehabilitation and modernization and language that directs DOT to adopt policies that help deliver highway projects faster.

“Every Iowan — from our farmers and manufacturers to our families and small businesses — relies on our state’s infrastructure day in and day out,” Ernst said. “States, like Iowa, need certainty to be able to deliver the transportation infrastructure projects that keep our people and economy moving. ... I’m pleased to help unanimously pass this long-term infrastructure package that includes my key provisions to help modernize our locks and dams, help address mobility challenges in rural areas and ensure our state gets the support we need. This bipartisan bill also cuts Washington red tape so we can deliver key projects faster and at a lower cost to taxpayers — all while creating more jobs and continuing to boost our booming economy.”

“We look forward to working with our federal partners in the House and Senate to pass a surface transportation bill that meets our residents’ needs and supports county priorities in strengthening our national transportation network in a timely manner,” Chase concluded.

TAGS: Policy
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