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DC Insider: Senate releases highway bill


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On May 12, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works released S. 2322, the MAP-21 Reauthorization Act.

This bill would replace MAP-21, our nation’s current surface transportation bill, which is scheduled to expire in September.

However, it is important to note that S. 2322 – as currently written – is only a portion of the bill.

The Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation must still write and release the portion of the bill that would handle highway safety issues – including motorcycle-only checkpoints, vehicle-to-vehicle communication, the ban on federal agencies lobbying state governments and distracted driving.

Additionally, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs will write the sections of the final bill that relate to mass transit.

Both committees are expected to produce draft language soon.

S. 2322 would reauthorize the Recreational Trails Program – a program that is funded by excise taxes paid by off-highway-vehicle users when they buy gasoline. The RTP provides $85 million annually to fund recreational trails across the nation.

Just as important for all motorists – whether on two or four wheels – is that this proposal would continue highway funding for the next six years at current levels, plus inflation. This would provide planners with enough certainty to plan long-term projects.

However, the committee’s bill would not solve the immediate problem of the Highway Trust Fund drying up before the new bill is passed. This would cause the U.S. Department of Transportation to slow payments to the states and could shut down many projects planned for the summer months.

Secretary Anthony Foxx warned state DOTs of this possibility in a letter earlier this month.

While Congress is expected to act to prevent the trust fund from dipping below $4 billion – the point at which the federal DOT would slow payments to states – the possibility looms that a compromise may not be reached. In this case, repairs to highways would slow or stop.

The result would be a system of roads and highways that is less safe for motorcyclists.

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