New Surface Transportation Bill Awaits President’s Signature

US Capitol

Credit: Florian Hirzinger

Three years and nine extensions since SAFETEA-LU expired, a new surface transportation bill, dubbed Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) has been approved through conference of the  House and Senate. The measure now  awaits the President’s signature. The 2-year bill is the result of months of congressional negotiation over competing transportation bills, introduced separately in 2011.

The pending transportation bill:

  • Allocates about $109 billion for surface transportation over the next 2 years, mainly through existing motor fuel tax revenues.
  • Consolidates 50+ transportation funding programs into four core programs, which will consist of modified Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality and Surface Transportation Programs along with new National Highway Performance and  Highway Safety Improvement Programs.
  • Establishes a Transportation Alternatives program, which merges existing Safe Routes to Schools, Recreational Trails and Scenic Highways programs.
  • Retains $500,000,000 for competitive grants for Projects of National and Regional Significance.
  • Expands eligibility for projects to receive Categorical Exclusion status in the NEPA process with the aim of streamlining project delivery. CE’s are now possible for projects programmed with less than $5 million in federal funds, projects which rebuild facilities impacted by declared emergency or natural disaster and projects whose extents are wholly within existing right of way.
  • Maintains the 50,000 population threshold for Metropolitan Planning Organization designation.
  • Compels MPOs to adopt an outcome-driven planning approach by integrating performance measures and targets into regional plans.
  • Calls for the TIP to illustrate how programmed transportation projects help achieve MPO targets for system performance.

Full text of the bill may be found here. A final one-week extension of SAFETEA-LU was signed by President Obama last Friday while the new bill  is prepared for signature, which is expected within the week.

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