Yesterday the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved its six-year transportation bill, the Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act of 2015 (S. 1732).
The bill includes dozens of transportation provisions, but we were watching three in particular: the Railroad Reform, Enhancement, and Efficiency Act (S. 1626) and the Safe Streets amendment, both of which we hoped to see included, and a proposal to narrow the scope of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER grants, which we hoped would be cut.
We’re excited to report that all three efforts were successful! The Railroad Reform, Enhancement, and Efficiency Act was included, which will expand a loan program and help finance new transit-oriented development projects and infrastructure near passenger rail stations.
The Safe Streets amendment was also included, and we want to thank in particular Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Senator Dean Heller (R-NV), and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) for championing this issue. This component of the bill will require states and metropolitan planning organizations to adopt Complete Streets policies for federally funded projects—helping to make streets safer for everyone who uses them.
Finally, the provision to dramatically alter the U.S. Department of Transportation’s highly successful Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants was not included in the final bill. That means the program will retain its competitive, multimodal focus, which is great news for innovative community development efforts. While this is indeed a victory for TIGER, we’re still working to make sure the program becomes a fully authorized part of the final transportation bill.
We want to thank all the members of the Senate Commerce Committee for their bipartisan leadership to advance these important programs. This bill, if passed, will help improve infrastructure across the country and help communities build new development near transit.
Senate leaders will combine this with other bills from the Committees on Environment and Public Works, Commerce as well as Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. That combined bill will then go to the full Senate for consideration—possibly as early as next week. Senate leaders are also working with the Finance Committee to agree on how to fund it all.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives yesterday passed a five-month extension of the current transportation bill, MAP-21. Questions remain as to whether the Senate will be able to pass a long-term bill or accept the House’s short-term extension before MAP-21 expires at the end of the month.