Domestic Policies

House transportation bill impacts life of just about every American

Reuters

 (Reuters)

This week, the House of Representatives is taking up a bill that impacts the life of just about every American on a daily basis.

The Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act (the STRR Act) will help improve our nation’s vast system of roads, bridges, and public transportation systems. 

All modes of transportation are critical to the interconnected network that links us to our jobs, our families, and the goods we need, but few of us go through a day without utilizing the surface transportation system.

The STRR Act provides a multi-year commitment by Congress to improve this infrastructure and maintain a strong commitment to transportation safety.   

Safe, efficient highways and transit means that we spend less time in traffic, and put less wear and tear on our vehicles. It also means transportation costs for goods and services remain lower, our businesses are more competitive, and more jobs are created throughout the economy.

Safe, efficient highways and transit means that we spend less time in traffic, and put less wear and tear on our vehicles.  It also means transportation costs for goods and services remain lower, our businesses are more competitive, and more jobs are created throughout the economy.

In order to help achieve these goals, the STRR Act provides reforms in some key areas.

The legislation refocuses surface transportation resources on addressing national priorities to help our economy grow and drive job creation. 

By channeling existing funding into a Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects Program, $4.5 billion over six years is authorized for infrastructure improvements that facilitate the flow of commerce and help states and regions undertake significant, complex projects.

The STRR Act also recognizes that while the federal government has a role to play in ensuring a national transportation system, states and local governments know their specific needs better than Washington bureaucrats. 

For example, the bill converts the substantial Surface Transportation Program into a block grant program, investing more flexibility and decision-making authority at the state and local level. 

Furthermore, the bill provides more state and local control under the Transportation Alternatives Program, allowing more of that funding to be used on other projects.

The STRR Act reduces the federal bureaucracy and accelerates the transportation project delivery process.  For example, by eliminating or consolidating at least six Department of Transportation offices into one National Surface Transportation and Innovative Finance Bureau, the measure creates a one-stop-shop to help states, local governments, and private sector partners get projects moving.  Streamlining provisions and giving states a stronger role in the environmental review process also help accelerate project delivery.  And the bill reduces regulatory burdens on small companies.

The bill the House is considering this week encourages innovation, which is increasingly important to how we build our roads and get from place to place.  

Connected vehicles, smart infrastructure, and autonomous vehicles are a few examples of the future of transportation, and we cannot afford to stifle or overregulate innovations that can make the transportation system safer and more efficient. 

If advances in technology can reduce instances of driver error, the key factor in 93 percent of highway crashes, then we should be able to reduce the approximately 32,000 traffic fatalities each year. 

Some of the ways in which the STRR Act welcomes innovation: promoting deployment of transportation technologies and congestion management tools, like vehicle-to-infrastructure equipment, that can help reduce congestion and improve safety; incentivizing motor carriers to install the latest safety technology on trucks and buses; and accelerating the introduction of new technologies for motor carrier safety.

The development of this legislation has been a bipartisan, inclusive process.  Republicans and Democrats worked together, gathered ideas and input from stakeholders and state and local officials across the country, and found common ground for the good, necessary reforms in the bill that will help us more effectively strengthen our nation’s surface transportation system. 

Passing this bill out of the House will bring us one step closer to improving the infrastructure Americans rely on every day.

Republican Bill Shuster represents Pennsylvania's 9th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He serves as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

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