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House Transportation Committee leaders roll out reauthorization proposal

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domeHouse Transportation Committee leaders have rolled out a new six-year transportation reauthorization proposal that , they say, streamlines and reforms federal programs, expedites the project approval process, maximizes leveraging of limited resources, provides flexibility for states, and ensures long-term funding stability for job-creating transportation programs.

Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL) and Committee leaders presented a framework for a six-year reauthorization of federal highway, transit and highway safety programs. The multi-modal initiative also incorporates significant policy reforms for rail and maritime transportation.

“Given U.S. House rules and budget constraints, this proposal maximizes the value of our available infrastructure funding through better leveraging, streamlining the project approval process, attracting private sector investment, and cutting the federal bureaucracy,” Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL) said. “Most importantly, this six-year proposal provides the stability states need to plan major transportation improvements and create long-term jobs.

The reauthorization proposal is intended to reform and streamline maritime programs and policies to remove impediments to what the committee leaders “this cheap, safe and environmentally- friendly form of transportation.”

The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) provides funds for the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to carry out the dredging of navigation channels to their authorized depths and widths. The HMTF is based upon a user fee collected from shippers that utilize the nation’s coastal ports. Unfortunately,say Committee leaders,” we do not invest all of these fees back into harbor maintenance. In FY 2010 the HMTF grew by $1.3 billion, but only $828.6 million was spent. If the status quo continues, the HMTF is estimated to have a balance of $6.93 billion at the end of FY 2012.”

The authorization proposal ties HMTF expenditures to revenues and “ensures that we invest funds collected for harbor maintenance as intended.

Streamlines Project Delivery & Federal Bureaucracy: The proposal expedites permits administered by the Corps of Engineers to help address backlogs that increase project costs, which are eventually borne by U.S. consumers and shippers. It also:

  • Streamlines the study process for Corps navigation projects
  • Ensures that policies and projects among departments sharing jurisdiction of the maritime transportation system are coordinated and streamlined.
  • Encourages Private Sector Investment and Leverages Non-Federal Funding
  • Encourages short-sea shipping by prohibiting double-taxation of vessels shipping goods between domestic ports. Our entire freight transportation network will be better utilized under this initiative. Allows
  • non-federal project sponsors that have already arranged financing to contract with the Corps to expedite studies for navigation projects.
  • Stimulates domestic shipbuilding and creation of maritime jobs by expanding the allowable use of tax-deferred Capital Construction Fund accounts.
  • Clarifies provisions relating to credit for work carried out by non-federal sponsors of Corps projects.
  • Ensures that ports seeking to deepen channels are not penalized for trying to attract the larger vessels becoming more common in shipping.
  • July 7, 2011
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