EPW Committee Approves Major Highway Funding Measure
Sen. Whitehouse Serves on Committee and Helped Craft Key Provision
Washington, DC – The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee today passed a major transportation funding bill that would provide long-term certainty for federal highway projects. U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) is a member of the committee and helped to include a new “Assistance for Major Projects Program” in the bill, which is based on a “Projects of National and Regional Significance Program” he has championed in previous years. The new program would provide funding to assist states in completing large, important, and expensive projects like reconstruction of Rhode Island’s 6-10 Connector.
“As this week’s closure of the Park Avenue Bridge in Cranston demonstrated, Rhode Island badly needs a long-term highway bill to create jobs, grow our economy, and make our roads and bridges safer,” Whitehouse said. “This bill would provide the certainty our state needs to take on important projects like reconstruction of the 6-10 Connector while also providing steady funding for an array of bridge and road repairs. It’s a strong blueprint for federal highway funding, but Senate Republicans need to keep moving on this issue to avoid a highway funding shutdown at the end of July. I urge them to move quickly to pass a final bill.”
Funding for the federal Highway Trust Fund is currently set to expire on July 31.
The six-year EPW bill would boost the funding provided to states by more than $2.7 billion in FY 2016, a more than 7% increase, with additional increases over the remaining five years to account for inflation. Rhode Island, which received $211 million in FY 2014, the last full year of authorized highway funding, could expect to receive $226 million next year under this bill.
The bill would provide a total of $2.4 billion over six years for the Assistance for Major Projects Program, which would be delivered to states through competitive grants.
According to a report compiled last year by the White House, Rhode Island had the highest percentage of deficient or obsolete bridges in America and was tied for the highest percentage of roads in poor condition. And according to the transportation research group TRIP, driving on roads in need of repair costs Rhode Island motorists $478 million a year – $637 per motorist – in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs.
Now that the EPW Committee has completed its work, several other committees need to do their part – including the Finance Committee, which must identify a source of funding. Whitehouse and Senate Democrats have repeatedly called on Senate Republicans in recent weeks to complete that process as quickly as possible.
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