Senate Acts On Final Transportation Funding Law
Package Includes Freeze of Student Loan Rates; Reauthorization of Flood Insurance House expected to pass, sending it to President’s desk
June 29, 2012
Washington – U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Transportation and member of the conference committee which negotiated the final package, today announced bi-partisan action on comprehensive transportation legislation that will create and protect nearly three million jobs and make critical investments in the nation’s transit and road systems including over $500 million a year for New Jersey’s public transit system and nearly $1 billion for the state’s roads.
“With today’s bi-partisan action, we will protect and create nearly three million jobs across the nation, and at the same time, invest in our infrastructure and improve public transportation for New Jersey families and commuters,” said Menendez. “It has been a long and tough road but I am incredibly pleased by the outcome: More transit formula funding for New Jersey than ever before, which means more jobs and a more reliable and safer transportation system. It will also help New Jersey’s employers continue to attract world class talent from around the region.
The bill also protects student loan rates from doubling at the end of the month. Menendez said: “It came down to the wire, but I’m so pleased we were able to overcome Republican opposition and find a way to prevent student loan rates from doubling for millions of Americans, including 140,000 students in New Jersey.”
The approved package also reauthorizes the National Flood Insurance program for five years. Menendez said he was pleased this will provide stability and certainty for the housing market and the thousands of New Jersey homeowners who rely on flood insurance, but added: “I remain concerned about the affordability of premiums and I look forward to FEMA releasing its study I fought to get included, which will look at ways to make insurance more affordable for struggling families.”
Menendez expressed disappointment that the final bill did not include a several measures that had been part of the original Senate-passed legislation, including: Restoring the full transit tax commuter benefit; Operating flexibility for use of federal funds to keep transit workers employed in hard economic times; sustainable water infrastructure investment; Increased funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund; and Increased funding for pedestrian and bicycle access.
“While I am pleased about so much of the investments we are able to make as a result of this bi-partisan bill, I am very disappointed that we were not able to provide transit agencies more flexibility to use federal funds to retain workers in hard economic times,” said Menendez. “I also have concerns about a number of changes to the Senate bill that would have protected the environment, but at the end of the day I support this bill because of the jobs it will create and the expanded transportation investments it will provide New Jersey.”
Menendez added that he will continue to fight for his Sustainable Water Infrastructure Act to create private sector jobs rebuilding our nation’s crumbling water infrastructure. Despite a broad range of bi-partisan support, the measure, which would remove the annual volume caps on private activity bonds for water and wastewater projects, was killed by House Republican negotiators.
Highlights of the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act”:
- Nearly $1 billion per year in highway funding for NJ and over $70 million more per year for transit. By cutting waste and eliminating earmarks, the bill will provide New Jersey more than $506 million federal formula transit funding in FY13 and nearly $514 million in FY14, an increase of more than $70 million per year over current law. This is more federal formula transit funding per year than ever before -- without increased overall federal spending.
- Protects or creates nearly 3 million jobs nationwide including protecting more than 54,000 NJ highway and transit jobs.
- New standards for highway reflective markers that protects American jobs, worker health and the environment. Each year more than 500 million pounds of glass beads are used on U.S. highways to stripe pavement. Substandard imported glass beads undercut the U.S. domestic beads industry and could eliminate jobs in New Jersey and other states. Studies show that heavy metals in beads manufactured abroad not only expose American workers using the beads to contaminants, the beads can leach toxic substances into surface water and groundwater. The legislation would keep substandard beads off the market by putting a 200 parts per million limit of arsenic or lead in reflective beads.
- Extension of Code Section 420 that allows companies to transfer money from over-funded pension funds to fund health insurance, and expand it to include life insurance as well. This amendment will be a useful tool for companies in meeting the health care and benefit needs of workers.
- Reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for 5 years, reforming the program in an effort to restore solvency. In addition to providing flood insurance and reducing flood damages through floodplain management regulations, the NFIP identifies and maps the Nation's floodplains. Mapping flood hazards creates broad-based awareness of the flood hazards and provides the data needed for floodplain management programs and to actuarially rate new construction for flood insurance.
- New $10 million transit oriented development planning program. The program will help communities create more livable communities by planning new development around new transit hubs. The provision is based on similar language in Senator Menendez’s Livable Communities Act, and in New Jersey would work in tandem with the state’s Transit Village program.
- Increased funding for the National Transit Institute at Rutgers (NTI) [$5million]. NTI provides training, education, and clearinghouse services in support of public transportation and quality of life for the entire nation. In recent years this important national program has seen its funding slashed, despite the increased need for training in the face of an ongoing wave of retirements in the industry. This bill will raise NTI’s funding to $5 million per year from $3.8 million.
- Streamlined and reformed “New Starts” process. The bill streamlines the process for the federal approval of new projects and allows projects designed to increase capacity on existing systems rather than just allow new systems or new lines. Older systems such as New Jersey’s that are at capacity could, for instance, use the program to add a new station or add another track.
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