Oberstar: Much Unfinished Business Remains
The principal order of business for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in 2010 will be completing the unfinished business from 2009.
Major legislation to invest in our nation’s surface transportation infrastructure, modernize air traffic control, bring economic development opportunities to distressed areas of the country, improve transportation on our inland waterways, enhance safety in the transport of hazardous materials, and protect our nation’s waters are on the committee’s agenda for next year.
Surface Transportation Authorization Act
High on the list of legislative priorities for 2010 is the passage of a new, long-term surface transportation authorization bill.
On June 24, the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit marked up a committee print of a proposed six-year, $500 billion authorization for highways, bridges, highway safety and transit programs.
The legislation transforms the current program structure at the Department of Transportation, making for a streamlined funding process with greater coordination between the modal agencies. It creates a metropolitan mobility and access initiative to reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, provides accountability for how federal transportation dollars are spent, and increases livability for our communities. In addition, the bill increases our national investment in high-speed rail and will create a National Infrastructure Bank to better leverage limited transportation dollars. Most importantly, the legislation will create or sustain some 6 million family-wage jobs.
Unfortunately, this landmark transportation initiative has moved no further. A full legislative calendar in the House and calls from other quarters to delay action on such a bill have stalled it in its tracks. In the meantime, the current transportation funding law, originally set to expire Sept. 30, 2009, has been extended to allow us time to move its successor.
Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization
A reauthorization for the Federal Aviation Administration is now more than two years overdue. The House approved and sent to the Senate H.R. 915, the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act, on May 21 of this year.
The bill provides $53.5 billion for the FAA’s capital programs from fiscal years 2010 through 2012. It provides funds to accelerate the implementation of the Next Generation Air Transportation System, also known as NextGen, enables the FAA to make needed repairs and replacement of existing facilities and equipment and provides for the implementation of high-priority safety-related systems.
As with surface transportation, our federal aviation programs have been kept alive through a series of extensions of the previous authorization until the House and Senate can take final action on this bill.
National Transportation Safety Board Reauthorization
Another reauthorization still pending from the 110th Congress is the reauthorization for the National Transportation Safety Board.
The independent agency that investigates transportation accidents and issues safety recommendations to the Department of Transportation and other agencies saw its authorization expire in 2008.
A new, four-year NTSB authorization bill is pending in the Senate.
In addition, the committee expects to take action on the following bills in 2010:
H.R. 3619, the Coast Guard Authorization Act (passed by the House on Oct. 23 and now pending in the Senate).
H.R. 3377, the Disaster Response, Recovery, and Mitigation Enhancement Act (marked up and ordered reported by the full T&I Committee on Nov. 5 and awaiting action in the full House).
H.R. 4016, the Hazardous Material Transportation Safety Act, reauthorizes the Department of Transportation’s hazardous materials safety program (marked up and ordered reported by the full T&I Committee on Nov. 19 and awaiting action in the full House). The authorization for the program expired on Sept. 30, 2008.
H.R. 2868, the Chemical and Water Security Act (passed by the House on Nov. 6 and awaiting action in the Senate).
H.R. 1262, the Water Quality Investment Act (passed by the House on March 12 and awaiting action in the Senate).
The Water Resources Development Act of 2010 (bill to be introduced).
Regional water authorizations, such as Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes and Long Island Sound (bills to be introduced).
Reauthorization of the Economic Development Administration (bill to be introduced).
In 2009, the T&I Committee held a total of eight full committee and subcommittee oversight hearings to monitor investment of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds in transportation and infrastructure projects under the committee’s jurisdiction. In 2010, the committee will continue its vigorous oversight of these programs to ensure that the funding is invested properly, wisely and with an eye toward creating and sustaining good, family-wage jobs.
The committee will also continue vigorous oversight over any and all of the federal programs under its jurisdiction.
Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.