House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., said the $260 billion bill would create jobs and reduce reliance on imported energy. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)
House Transportation Committee leaders Tuesday unveiled a $260 billion bill to fund federal transportation programs. Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., said the five-year transportation authorization bill will create jobs and reduce reliance on imported energy.
If approved, the measure would be the first long-term authorization bill passed in Congress since 2005. The current highway and transit authorization law, called SAFETEA-LU, has been extended eight times since it originally expired Sept. 30, 2009. The current extension will expire March 31.
The Senate is also considering a two-year authorization bill.
House members, at a news conference Tuesday, did not offer details on where the money for their proposal would come from. But Mica has previously proposed driving new revenue from domestic energy production into the Highway Trust Fund, which funds construction of highway and transit programs.
The Highway Trust Fund will be unable to meet obligations starting next year, according to a Congressional Budget Office report released Tuesday.
From 2008 to 2010, the Highway Trust Fund received almost $35 billion in transfers from the general fund to keep it from being exhausted, the report states.
Details of the proposal still have to be worked out, Mica said. The committee will mark up the bill Thursday.
Among the key measures:
• No earmarks. Compared with the previous Transportation Authorization Act, which contained more than 6,300 earmarks, the House bill does not designate funding for special projects. This would allow states more flexibility in deciding which projects need funding the most, said Jack Basso, director of program finance and management for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
• Consolidation or elimination of nearly 70 federal transportation programs.
• Allowing federal and state environmental approvals to run concurrently instead of consecutively. The concurrent timelines should reduce how long it takes to complete projects by years, said Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn.
• Encouragement of public-private partnerships for new construction by allowing states to toll new lanes on the interstate highway system and providing additional funding for a federal transportation infrastructure loan program.