Sens. Warner & Kaine: Compromise Highway Bill Returns $6.2 Billion to Virginia
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kaine voted for the FAST Act, a bipartisan House-Senate agreement on highway and transit funding which returns $6.2 billion in federal transportation funding to Virginia over the next five years. Congress has not passed a transportation funding bill lasting longer than two years since 2005, and the five-year FAST Act will give states, transportation planners and contractors the time and certainty needed to make desperately-needed improvements to our infrastructure.
In addition, the legislation renews the charter of the Export-Import Bank, which expired on July 1, for another four years. Between 2007 and 2015, the Export-Import Bank helped businesses from every corner of Virginia export $2 billion worth of goods and services.
“I am disappointed in several of the choices that were made in paying for this highway and transit legislation, yet I remain a strong supporter of additional investments in our transportation systems,” Sen. Warner said. “This compromise package addresses many of Virginia’s critical transportation and mass transit priorities, and I will continue efforts in Congress to return to the more responsible approach of asking those who use and benefit from our transportation system to fund its upkeep.”
“I supported the transportation bill the Senate passed tonight, the FAST Act, because it provides something we haven’t had in years – higher investment in America’s transportation infrastructure and the long-term certainty of a five-year bill. This investment will generate returns for the economy and commuters by saving gasoline not burned, work productivity not lost, and family time not missed from idling in traffic or waiting for delayed trains,” said Sen. Kaine. “I was pleased that several amendments advocated by Senator Warner and me were included – strengthening federal safety oversight authority over WMATA, requiring federal members of the WMATA board to be appointed by the Department of Transportation and creating a new investment source for nationally significant transportation assets like the structurally deficient Arlington Memorial Bridge. I also applaud the overdue reauthorization of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which benefits a vast array of Virginia companies. The effects of decaying infrastructure make no distinctions between Democrats and Republicans, and today, Members of Congress from both parties voted together to start fixing our roads and rails.”
- Virginia will receive about $5.4 billion over five years for its interstate highway programs, an increase of roughly $1.5 billion over what it would have received over that period at current funding levels. In addition, Virginia will see an increase of $51 million in mass transit funding over current spending levels. This will provide much-needed new funding and allow Virginia to properly plan and budget for transportation projects. According to TRIP, the nonprofit The Road Information Program, up to one-third of Virginia’s major highways currently are congested. A reliable five-year federal funding stream will allow the Commonwealth Transportation Board to plan through the year 2020.
- The FAST Act broadens federal support to prioritize the reconstruction of deteriorating bridges. The Federal Highway Administration has determined that 3,574 bridges in Virginia are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
- The FAST Act includes provisions Sen. Warner has advocated to improve the safety and reliability of Metro, including Sen. Warner’s call for a federal review of transit safety standards. It will provide DOT with additional authority to help with its oversight of the struggling Washington Metro system (WMATA). It also includes the transfer of responsibility for the federal appointee to Metro’s Board from the General Services Administration to the U.S. Department of Transportation, so that transportation experts are in charge of making those appointments.
- The FAST Act provides additional resources for the National Park Service to address transportation priorities, including Memorial Bridge, a key artery connecting Arlington to Washington D.C. The Memorial Bridge was built in 1932, carries more than 68,000 vehicles each day, and is currently undergoing emergency repairs to address structural deterioration.
- The FAST Act phases out older, DOT-111 oil tanker railroad cars, and requires new thermal safety jackets and other safety components for all rail cars transporting crude oil and flammable materials. Sens. Warner and Kaine have been leaders in pushing for improvements to the safety of crude-by-rail shipments since an April 30, 2014 rail derailment in Lynchburg. The accident resulted in a massive fire and the release of approximately 20,000 gallons of crude oil into the James River.
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