The Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, a bill which includes transportation funding and a deal to prevent the doubling of the student loan interest rate for undergraduate students, passed on a 373 to 52 vote in the U.S. House of representatives Friday, June 29, 2012. The bill includes more than $1.3 billion for highways and $464 million on transit systems in Washington state through September 2014.
Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, issued the following statement after voting for bill.
“This bill creates jobs now and expands opportunity in the future,” Larsen said. “We cannot have a big league economy with a little league infrastructure. This bill makes substantial investments in our roads, bridges and highways, and maintaining our transit systems, and will create or retain tens of thousands of construction jobs in Northwest Washington. This bill will do more to create jobs through public investment than any other piece of legislation that Congress has passed since 2010.”
“I have been fighting hard for a long-term, robust transportation bill because I know that in Washington state, transportation means jobs. This is not a perfect bill, but it sustains critical funding and delivers on Washington state’s priorities. It invests in our foundation to spur future economic growth.”
Larsen spoke on the House floor about the bill this morning. The text and video of that speech are available here.
“I am pleased that many of the provisions I worked hard to support are included in this final bill,” Larsen added. “Washington state residents will benefit from new guarantees of funding our ferry system and from an expansion in the ways that Washington state can invest in major highway projects that create jobs and improve the flow of traffic.
“The bill guarantees funding for ferry programs, mirroring a proposal that I put forward in my U.S. Ferry Systems Investment Act. This means that Washington State Ferries will have predictable and secure funding every year rather than having to compete with other programs around the country. Federal investments in our ferries will improve safety and efficiency for passengers. Ferries are a critical part of our transportation system, and this bill makes sure they are not overlooked.
Below is a summary of the transportation programs included in the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012 of particular importance to Washington state.
The bill will provide improved resources for the Washington State Ferries system, by moving to a formula-based program based on the number of vehicles, passengers, and miles traveled. That three part formula mirrors Larsen’s proposal in his U.S. Ferry Systems Investment Act (H.R. 1789). For the first time, funding will be guaranteed for the ferry program.
The bill creates a new national freight policy that requires the designation of up to 30,000 miles as a national freight network to expedite trade and movement of goods and commodities. States that prioritize freight infrastructure investments will receive larger federal matching funds for those projects. Washington state is particularly well poised to take advantage of this program.
Use of Private Capital for Transportation Projects
The bill expands the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA), a program that provides federal backing for states and local governments that use private loans to pay for transportation projects. With TIFIA backing of up to $1 billion of projects, Washington state will have more options for ways to fund projects like the SR 520 bridge replacement.
The bill strengthens highway safety provisions, including new efforts to prevent distracted driving, restrictions for unsafe bus companies, and streamlined safety programs to encourage states to get tough on drunk driving.
The bill extends the National Flood Insurance Program for five years until September 30, 2017 and makes important reforms to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s premium rate structure to strengthen the program’s financial footing.