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Transportation bill moving through Senate

WASHINGTON, DC – Idaho stands to gain nearly half a billion dollars under federal transportation funding levels agreed to by Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo and his colleagues on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this week. The spending proposals are part of the six-year highway reauthorization transportation bill, S. 1072.

The reauthorization bill, known as SAFETEA – or the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act – is likely to be approved later this year by the full Senate.

"Improving our infrastructure is step one toward improving our economy, and this proposal will get nearly a half-billion dollars above current spending into new transportation projects for Idaho," said Crapo. He cautioned the numbers could change as the measure moves through the legislative process.

Total funding for Idaho under the already enacted Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) was set at approximately $1.3 billion; under the figures agreed to today, that amount would rise to $1.7 billion over the six-year duration of the bill.

"In this election year, spending levels are difficult to predict, but we have established a marker that improves highway and other transportation spending for Idaho. We can expect a 35% increase in funding over the six-year cycle, and that increase is far larger than many states, some of which received 10 percent increases," Crapo added. "As the federal government owns nearly two-thirds of our state, it is important that we receive additional highway funds in compensation."

Crapo has also fought to make spending transportation funding more flexible at the state level, and successfully added amendments calling for increased safety for school children, improvements at railway-highway crossings, and enhanced fish passage and public access on federal lands. The federal bill is estimated to create more than two million new jobs over the next six years, if approved by the full Senate.

"A good transportation system promotes economic growth in Idaho and across the nation while improving our quality of life," Crapo added. "It gets product from the farm and factory to the distribution centers, and on to the stores and consumers. It enables us to move safely and efficiently to school, work, around town and across the state and country.

"On a more general level, any good transportation legislation must distribute highway funds in a way that recognizes the national interest in transportation investment in and across rural states, not just in populated areas. Without good interstate and arterial routes in states like Idaho, business and pleasure travel as well as interstate commerce are detrimentally affected.

Accordingly, there is no question that the federal highway program needs to make a substantial net investment in the highways of Idaho," Crapo said.

This week’s action is the final activity that the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee needed to complete on the measure before it could be reported to the Senate floor. Both the Senate Finance and the Senate Banking Committees still need to complete action on the bill, which could be on the Senate floor by early February.