Congress Passes FAST ACT to Improve Transportation

The U.S. House and Senate decisively approved a five-year, $305 billion highway and transit bill Thursday, advancing the first long-term national transportation spending package in a decade. The bill now awaits President Obama’s signature.

Vicki Needham writes the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, which was approved by the House in a 359-65 vote, now heads to the White House and lawmakers expect President Barack Obama to sign the bipartisan bill by Friday. “This bill is a benefit to the citizens of Arkansas and our state’s economy”.

The more than 3 billion dollar bill boosts highway and transit spending and assures states will get federal help for projects.

The five-year, $305 billion act is the first long-term authorization passed by Congress since the $286.4 billion “Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users” or “SAFETEA-LU”, back in 2005, which expired in 2009. “AISI will continue to work with members of Congress to develop a long-term, permanent solution that will keep the fund sustainable and keep our roads and bridges structurally sound”, Gibson concluded.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, one of 16 senators to vote against the measure, said the bill is too massive.

Sen. Chris Coons and Rep. John Carney, both Delaware Democrats, voted in favor.

Like federal lawmakers, IN policymakers have been reluctant to raise the state’s 18 cents-a-gallon gas tax, which has lost 22 percent of its buying power since 2003. That tax has not been raised since 1993 even though transportation spending has increased.

The FAST Act includes over $6.8 billion in funding allocated to the state of Georgia through FY2020, which is $607 million above the funding levels set by 2012’s MAP 21 Act. It’s counted as new money on paper, but is actually just a transfer of funds from one government account to another, federal budget experts said. Damage awards from that accident, which killed eight people and injured about 200, are expected to exceed the current cap.

The bill also provides for reducingFederal Reserve dividends to banks, selling a portion of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and allowing the Internal Revenue Service to use private debt collectors to help collect unpaid taxes, among other changes.

The measure also authorizes a study on marijuana-impaired driving, and requires rental auto dealers and companies fix vehicles that have been recalled before loaning them out.

Until earlier this week, bus systems around the state were braced for a possible funding cut because the original House version of the bill would have ended the High Density States Program that brought $95 million to NY in 2014. The bill also provides $200 million to help railroads install the safety technology that could have prevented the accident.