Sullivan Supports Long-Term Highway Reauthorization Bill out of EPW Committee
WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) joined his Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee colleagues in unanimously passing S. 1647, the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act out of committee. This bipartisan six-year highway reauthorization bill, will now await action by the three other U.S. Senate committees of jurisdiction – Banking, Commerce and Finance – to pass their respective parts of the overall highway reauthorization bill.
"The EPW committee took a major step forward with the bipartisan passage of a long-term highway reauthorization bill. Our nation’s roads and bridge infrastructure are critical to this country’s economic growth and our way of life,” said Senator Sullivan. "The DRIVE Act will provide a funding structure for our country’s roads and infrastructure. In Alaska, the bill increases much-needed transportation funding, for tribal transportation and for the ferry system. It also cuts through project-killing red-tape and streamlines regulatory burdens.”
“While this is a step in the right direction, the Senate Finance Committee is now tasked with coming up with the dollars to make this legislation work. I stand ready to work with my colleagues to find a bipartisan solution to make a critical investment in our nation’s infrastructure without leaving middle class families stuck with the bill,” Senator Sullivan said.
The DRIVE Act is a six-year bill that sets funding levels at $2 billion above the baseline in the first year. From there, the bill sets growth of the program at inflation for the following 5 years.
The bill maintains the current formula that delivers a high rate of return for Alaska.
DRIVE ACT APPORTIONMENT FOR ALASKA
Alaska’s FY14 Total was $483,955,039.
Increases support for core formula programs:
The existing consolidated core highway program structure from MAP-21 is maintained, including: the National Highway Performance Program; the Highway Safety Improvement Program; the Surface Transportation Program; and the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program.
The Tribal Transportation Program (TTP):
The tribal transportation program has been flat funded at $450 million in recent years. This bill increases funding to $460 million in the first year and grows the program $10 million a year for every year of the six-year bill.
Federal Lands Transportation Program:
The Federal Lands Transportation Program has been flat funded at $300 million a year. This bill increases funding to $305 million in the first year and grows the program $5 million a year for every year of the six-year bill.
Federal Lands Access Program:
The Federal Lands Access Program has also been flat funded at $250 million. This bill increases funding to $255 million in the first year and grows the program $5 million a year for every year of the six year bill.
The bill increases funding for the ferry system from $67 million to $75 million a year.
Accelerated Project Delivery:
The environmental review process that is required for completing a highway project is slow and cumbersome. Delays within the environmental review process can lead to increased costs, traffic congestion, and less safe roads.
Specifically, the bill improves the cumbersome historic preservation review process to ensure that the processes for doing historic preservation are aligned to prevent needless delay. Additionally, the bill ensures that certain categorical exclusions (CE) will remain relevant for years to come by indexing that CE to inflation. The bill also improves the process for creating programmatic agreements to help streamline environmental reviews, improves collaboration between the lead agency and the participating agencies, allows for greater reliance on documents prepared during the planning process, and reduces duplication between agencies involved in the federal environmental review and permitting process.
PM 2.5 waiver for Congestion Mitigation program:
- Provides flexibility with respect to the PM 2.5 set-aside for states with low population densities.
- This will provide flexibility for PM 2.5 nonattainment communities such as Fairbanks, Alaska.
Land Swap in Alaska:
- Language clarifies a 2005 statue to ensure the proper exchange of land between Alaska and the United States Forest Service. This effort included 357 easements, 231 marine access points, 126 log transfer facilities, and 19 transportation and utility corridors. The language included in the bill restores the intent of the law and will allow for the exchange of all remaining reciprocal easements to continue.
Tribal transportation program amendment:
- Decreases program administrative expenses related to the tribal transportation program from 6% to 5%. Increases the set-aside for high-priority tribal bridges from 2% to 3%. This amendment makes the program more efficient by ensuring funds are being spent on building infrastructure in the program.
Nationally significant Federal lands and Tribal projects program:
- Authorizes an appropriation for a major project discretionary grant program for transportation projects on facilities owned by federal land management agencies or tribes.
- This provision allows projects to bundle together with other similar projects in order to maximize efficiencies. It allows for the flexibility of making payments on a program of projects, as long as the match is met by the completion of the project in the bundle rather than having to make each payment of the match.
- It streamlines the approval process by consolidating paperwork.
- Bundling structure would incentivize and allow projects access to participate in TIFIA, State Infrastructure Banks, and AMP.
Rural Road and Bridge Projects:
- The provision grants the Secretary of Transportation new authorities to provide exceptions and exemptions that provide regulatory relief and flexibility for rural road and bridge projects.
National Freight Program:
- The provision will initiate funding in 2016 and will be distributed through apportionment. The program is funded at $2 billion starting in FY16, and increases by $100 million for the subsequent five years.
- The language instructs DOT to designate a primary freight network of 30,000 miles. It also requires states to establish freight advisory committees and designate critical rural and urban networks respectively.
- The bill provides funding for states’ most pressing freight needs, which include critical first and last mile funding to freight hubs, such as ports.
Acceleration of Project Delivery/NEPA:
- The provision indexes to inflation the categorical exclusion for projects that receive less than $5 million in federal funds with a total estimated cost of less than $30 million.
- The language aligns the Section 106 and 4(f) processes related to historic preservation.
- It eliminates duplicative reviews by allowing project sponsors to limit the scope of NEPA reviews based on the actual purpose and need of the process as determined by the transportation planning process.
- The provision allows for a governor to request that DOT initiate the Environmental Review Process and requires a formal response through that process from DOT.
- The provision requires DOT to give technical assistance to states that hope to take over the categorical exclusion process.
- It requires the creation of a template for programmatic agreements for categorical exclusions that would make it easier for states to enter into a programmatic agreement.
- The language requires DOT to give substantial weight to programmatic agreements.
- The provision reforms the application of categorical exclusions for multimodal projects.
- Provides exemptions from the Migratory Bird Act for certain types of bridge infrastructure. The provision addresses bridge construction for the barn swallow issue.
- Establishes transparency by setting up a public platform for projects undergoing NEPA review.
- Allows advanced design work and ROW acquisition.
- Allows categorical exclusions in one mode apply to all in a multimodal project.
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