U.S. Chamber of Commerce - Key Vote Alert! re H.R. 4348 Transportation Reauthorization Conference Report
June 28, 2012
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region, strongly supports the H.R. 4348 conference report and urges the House and Senate to approve this important highway and public transportation reform and investment legislation so that it can be signed into law by the President before the current program expires on June 30.
While the road to this conference report was a long and difficult one, the Chamber applauds the House and Senate for working together to craft transportation reform and investment legislation that would:
- Establish historic reforms to the project delivery process;
- Consolidate and simplify the federal program structure;
- Strengthen accountability and performance measures;
- Reduce duplicative and costly federal approval processes for new Transit systems;
- Improve freight movement with targeted investment;
- Leverage federal resources through the TIFIA program to expand public private partnerships and private participation; and,
- Enhance the research, development and application of intelligent transportation technologies.
Embracing these strong, important, and meaningful reforms would consolidate overlapping and duplicative federal programs; shorten project times and save limited federal dollars; provide flexibility to states to target federal funds where they are most needed; and leverage federal funds through an expanded TIFIA program that draws private investment into infrastructure – saving thousands of jobs in construction and related industries.
In particular, the Chamber is very encouraged with the significant reforms this bill would provide for project delivery and environmental streamlining by reducing bureaucracy and red tape, eliminating duplicative and time-consuming environmental reviews for capacity expansion projects on existing roads and bridges, allowing for early right-of-way acquisitions, expanding the use of innovative contracting methods, firmly encouraging early coordination between relevant agencies to avoid delays later in the review process with deadlines and stiff penalties for non-compliance, “defederalizing” projects with minimal federal funding, consolidating environmental documentation, and strengthening dispute resolution procedures.
Beyond the key highway, transit and safety provisions, the Chamber applauds the inclusion of the RESTORE Act provisions in the conference report, which would help restore the economy of the Gulf Coast region and the natural resources on which their communities rely by directing a significant portion of Clean Water Act civil penalties paid by those responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill back to the Gulf Coast communities.
While the Chamber strongly supports the conference report, we believe this legislation could have been stronger if the conference committee had not rejected some provisions of the House or Senate bills. The Chamber strongly preferred the higher Senate funding levels, which would have returned the programs to the high water mark in FY2011. However, the Chamber looks forward to working with Congress to ensure that federal transportation and transit programs have the sustainable, predictable and growing user-based funding source needed for the long term.
The Chamber is disappointed the Keystone XL pipeline remains an unresolved issue and a missed opportunity for Congress and the Administration to create jobs and ensure a more secure energy supply.
Moreover, the Chamber is disappointed that the legislation does not include provisions of the bill that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from moving forward with plans to reclassify coal combustion residuals, which would prevent these residuals from being beneficially reused in a host of products. The Chamber will continue to work with Congress to address this important issue.
On the whole, however, the Chamber commends the conference committee members for their leadership and determination to craft a strong, important, and meaningful transportation and transit reform and investment bill. Final action on this long-awaited conference report is a specific action Congress and the Administration can take right now to support job growth and economic productivity without adding to the deficit. The Chamber strongly supports the H.R. 4348 conference report. The Chamber will include votes on, or in relation to, H.R. 4348 in our annual How They Voted scorecard.
R. Bruce Josten