U.S. House Approves Major Transportation Reform Bill

On Friday, June 29th, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a major transportation bill, House Resolution 4348 titled the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act” with a vote of 373 to 52.  This bill includes major reforms on the federal transportation process including shortening the project approval process, consolidation and elimination of redundant federal programs and allowing states flexibility to direct limited federal resources to high-priority needs.  Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Representative John Mica, said of the bill, “This measure includes historic reforms – cutting red tape and consolidating or eliminating nearly 70 federal programs.”   Chairman Mica also said, “This bill will provide a major boost to our economy by putting Americans back to work building our nation’s bridges and highways.”

Chairman Mica will be the keynote speaker at the Council for Quality Growth’s and the Urban Land Institute’s event “Regional Transportation: Countdown to July 31” on Wednesday, July 13. 

Under the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act” funding for federal highway, transit and highway safety programs will remain at current levels through 2014.  This will allow states to plan and carry out major transportation improvements.  This act streamlines a project delivery process which under the old bill at times could take 15 years for major projects.  The mechanisms that allow for a shorter process include: the setting of deadlines for all approvals to take place in 4 years with the risk of losing funding if this does not happen;  a mandate that allows the classification of smaller projects ($5 million or less) as categorical exclusions; a mandate that allows the classification of “operational right of way” projects as categorical exclusions; a mandate that allows the classification of projects being rebuilt after a natural disaster as categorical exclusions; and the requirement of a study of which state laws provide the same level of protection as federal law.

The “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act” also consolidates many of the existing highway programs in the United States.  Currently, there are over 100 programs that have required $35 billion in General Fund transfers over the past 4 years.  The act consolidates the number of surface transportation programs by two thirds, eliminates dozens of programs, lowers total Transportation Enhancements program funding by $200 million and gives states the flexibility to use 50% of this money on construction programs, and incentivizes states for using public private partnerships to finance and operate transportation projects.

This act also includes no earmarks as opposed to the previous bill which contained over 6,300 earmarks.

CLICK HERE to view a PDF of House Resolution 4348