Bill Gives States More Say in Infrastructure Safety and Development

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL) and Members of the Committee unveiled details about the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act yesterday. This bill is designed to reform transportation programs and promote increased domestic energy production.
Among policies intended to improve the economy and create jobs, the legislation also gives states the authority to opt into a higher federal (interstate) vehicle weight limit for single-trailer trucks equipped with six axles rather than the typical five.

The Coalition for Transportation Productivity (CTP), a group of 200 shippers and allied associations supporting this reform, praised the bill, noting that the required sixth axle maintains all braking and handling characteristics at the new limit of 97,000 pounds. The CTP says this will enable shippers to safely utilize truck space that remains empty at the current 80,000-pound federal weight limit.

“This proposal will reduce the truckloads, fuel and vehicle miles necessary to meet demand,” CTP states. “Further, participating states will have full authority to exclude these trucks from operating on any route or bridge.”

The American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act is the largest transportation reform bill since the creation of the Interstate Highway System in 1956. It is a five-year bill that reforms federal transportation programs, cuts impediments that delay projects across the country, gives states more flexibility to determine their most critical infrastructure needs and encourages private sector participation in helping to finance transportation projects.

The Committee is scheduled to begin consideration of the transportation reauthorization portion of the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act on Thursday, February 2. The provisions would:

• Authorize approximately $260 billion over five years to fund federal highway, transit and safety programs, consistent with current funding levels;
• Provide long-term stability for states to undertake major infrastructure projects;
• Contain no earmarks, compared to the previous transportation law which contained over 6,300 earmarks;
• Consolidate or eliminate nearly 70 federal programs;
• Eliminate mandates that states spend highway funding on non-highway activities;
• Allow states to set their own transportation priorities;
• Delegate more project approval authority to states;
• Condense deadlines for federal agency project approvals;
• Accelerate the approval process for projects in an existing right-of-way;
• Encourage states to partner with the private sector to finance and build projects;
• Streamline the project delivery process and reduces regulatory burdens for rail projects;
• Call for the funds collected for the improvement of the nation’s harbors to be invested for that purpose; and
• Ensure the safe, efficient transportation of hazardous materials in a manner that does not impose unnecessary burdens on the flow of commerce.

“This bill will put Americans back to work rebuilding our roads and bridges and developing new sources of low cost energy,” Mica said. “This legislation may be the most important jobs measure to pass Congress this year.

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