Infrastructure in the News: June 29, 2012
Reuters: UPDATE 1-US Congress to vote on transportation, student loan bill
Congressional negotiators have cleared the way for votes on legislation covering transportation construction, student loan rates, and flood insurance after finalizing a compromise agreement on how to pay for those priorities. The House and Senate were set to consider the measure on Friday, one day before temporary funding for highway, bridge and transit projects was to expire and three days before an increase in federal student loan rates was set to take effect.
Politico: Transportation bill inching forward to passage
First, the transportation bill conference report was delayed because it took forever to draft; now, it’s again been delayed over drafting errors and Democrats’ reluctance to sign it. But Republicans were still signaling confidence in a Friday vote. The conference report still hadn’t been filed in the House as of early Thursday evening, but all indications were that enough lawmakers had signed off on the deal so forward movement is just a matter of time.
Bloomberg: Final Transportation Bill Includes Provisions To Streamline Environmental Review Process
House and Senate conferees have filed a final surface transportation conference report that would streamline the environmental review process for projects by expanding categorical exclusions and assigning financial penalties to federal agencies that fail to meet review deadlines. The conference report also includes a $2.4 billion transfer from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) fund, a provision that would allocate 80 percent of the fines related to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill to restoration projects for the Gulf Coast, and several other environmental provisions.
DC Streetsblog: Complete Streets Provision Eliminated From Final Transpo Bill
Yesterday we mentioned the watered-down funding provisions for street safety projects compared to the Senate bill. Turns out that isn’t the only way that the final bill weakens biking and walking. Indeed, the complete streets provision that passed with bi-partisan support in the Senate was eliminated from the final bill. “It was included in the Commerce committee’s freight title, which had come under fire from House Republicans for unrelated reasons,” said Barbara McCann of the National Complete Streets Coalition in a statement this morning.
Road Pricing: US House of Representatives rejects funding Vehicle Mileage Tax studies
The US Congress is currently in the process of seeking agreement for a new Bill to authorise transportation funding for the next six years. It has been a fraught process, and not one I will discuss in detail here. The big news from a road pricing perspective is that the House of Representatives, which is Republican dominated, has agreed to an amendment that effectively ceases Federal funding into studies into Vehicle Mileage Tax (VMT) according to The Hill.
Crosscut: A high-speed rail dream unrealized
The federal high-speed rail (HSR) program lately championed by politicians and administrators in the other Washington is fading into history. In his remarks at the March 15 launch of a $22.7-million seismic-upgrade project at Seattle's King Street Station, Federal Railroad Administration chief Joseph Szabo spoke instead about "high-performance rail." The transportation funding bill currently in the Senate makes the same emendation in referring to the measure's meager appropriation, $100 million, for passenger rail enhancements. Some experts are meanwhile using the term "higher-speed rail," downgrading the once-regnant HSR by interposing a lowly r, giving us HrSR.
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