Nadler Statement on the Transportation & Student Loans Conference Report

Jun 29, 2012 Issues: Transportation

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the senior Northeastern Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, voiced his support for H.R. 4248, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), the transportation reauthorization conference report.  The bill will provide critical investment in our nation’s roads, bridges, and transit systems, which will create major economic development and provide two million jobs, and includes an extension of lower student loan interest rates.  However, Nadler voiced his opposition to the fact that the bill underfunds bike and pedestrian safety programs, contains some harmful environmental provisions, and was crafted in a non-transparent process.

“Overall, this legislation is essential for creating jobs, preventing interest rates from increasing for millions of students, and putting us on a path toward economic recovery, ” said Nadler.  “The transit funding formulas are focused on regions with the highest need and will provide essential resources for the MTA to maintain a state of good repair and to make capacity improvements to New York City’s subway system,” said Nadler. 

Nadler highlighted the fact that the bill also contains a provision based on NY law,  “The bill provides additional funding for states that adopt mandatory alcohol ignition interlock laws for individuals convicted of a DUI. Ignition interlocks are a key feature of Leandra’s Law, a New York statute named for one of my constituents, a 9 year old girl who was killed in a drunk driving incident.” 

Below is the text of Nadler’s statement, as prepared:

“Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the transportation reauthorization conference report with mixed feelings.

“The conference report provides $105 billion over the next two years for highway and transit programs and will put about 2 million people to work at a time when we desperately need jobs.  These funding levels, although far from adequate, are a great improvement from the original House bill, and will allow transportation agencies to plan and construct projects important to the economy. The conference report also prevents student loan interest rates from doubling, which is critical for more than 7 million students. As such, I will vote for this conference report, but with a number of reservations.

“The highway program appears to retain the funding structure from the Senate bill and preserves current funding levels to the states. There were efforts to revise the formula, which could have resulted in cuts to many states, including, potentially, to New York but the bill holds all states harmless and insures that all states will benefit from this economic recovery and jobs package. The transit funding formulas are focused on regions with the highest need and will provide essential resources for the MTA to maintain a state of good repair and to make capacity improvements to New York City’s subway system.  It is unfortunate, however, that the ability for transit agencies to flex funding for operating assistance has been dropped from the final bill.

“Although the bill retains the Projects of National and Regional Significance Account as a competitive grant program, the provision is greatly watered down and is rendered largely symbolic. The authorization level is scaled back to $500 million for one year in FY13 and subject to general fund appropriations. It’s hard to see how any significant funding will be dedicated over the life of this bill to these projects that are essential to freight movement, economic growth, and global competitiveness. There is a requirement that DOT prepare a report on potential projects that would be funded under the program, so some work in this area will continue, but it is inadequate.

“Also, unfortunately, the Transportation Enhancements program, which includes bicycle, pedestrian, and safe routes to schools, is in the final agreement, but the program is weakened from current law and from the Senate bill. Despite the bipartisan support for transportation enhancements, the conference report lowers the overall amount of funding for these projects by several hundred million, and expands the ability for states to use this funding for other purposes, including for projects already eligible under other highway programs.  

“Thankfully, the Keystone Pipeline and coal ash provisions are out of the bill. These are important concessions that were undoubtedly difficult to secure. And although the 270 day “deeming” provision is no longer in the bill, there are other environmental streamlining provisions of concern, such as the expansion of NEPA categorical exclusions for all projects within an existing right of way. Massive highway projects could occur within an existing right-of-way, but would no longer be subject to NEPA requirements.

“I should mention that the bill provides additional funding for states that adopt mandatory alcohol ignition interlock laws for individuals convicted of a DUI. Ignition interlocks are a key feature of Leandra’s Law, a New York statute named for one of my constituents, a 9 year old girl who was killed in a drunk driving incident. I am thankful that the conference report contains this important provision.

“The final package is a combination of hard fought victories and losses. Overall, this legislation is essential for creating jobs, preventing interest rates from increasing for millions of students, and putting us on a path toward economic recovery. Therefore, I will support this conference report." 

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