At the White House on July 6, President Barack Obama signed the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) bill, which provides $105 billion in transportation spending over the next 27 months. At the signing ceremony, the president thanked the thousands of people across the U.S. who communicated the message to their senator, congressman, or congresswoman that the country needs a transportation bill. Andrew W. Herrmann
After operating since September 2009 under a series of short-term extensions, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate both overwhelmingly passed authorization of a new surface transportation bill, which President Barack Obama signed into law on July 6. The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) bill includes $105 billion in transportation spending over the next 27 months in the areas of federal highways, highway safety programs, and transit programs.
“First of all,” said President Obama at the signing ceremony at the White House attended by ASCE’s president, Andrew W. Herrmann, P.E., SECB, F.ASCE, “This bill will keep thousands of construction workers on the job rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure. And that’s why—for months—I’ve been calling on Congress to pass several common-sense ideas that will have an immediate impact on the economic security of American families. I’m pleased that they’ve finally acted. And the bill I’m about to sign will accomplish two ideas [infrastructure and affordable student loans] that are very important for the American people.”
“We commend the Congress for passing this bipartisan legislation that will invest in our nation’s transportation infrastructure, and in doing so, put thousands of Americans back to work,” says Herrmann. “This legislation is a critical shot in the arm for our nation’s transportation network, but it is only a first step. As ASCE has documented, we are not investing nearly enough to bring our roads, bridges, and transit systems to an acceptable condition that will serve our economy in the long run. We look forward to continuing to work with Congress on a long-term, reliable funding source to meet these goals.”
The president acknowledged in his remarks that Congress was able to finally pass a bipartisan surface transportation bill only after hearing from the American people and such organizations as ASCE. Through ASCE’s Legislative Fly-In and Key Contact Program, Society members were able to directly tell their elected officials they wanted a transportation bill passed. And through ASCE’s 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure and Failure to Act series, Congress was able to read about the current state of infrastructure in the U.S. and understand the consequences of not investing.
“I want to thank all the Americans,” said the president. “The young or the young at heart, who took the time to sit down and write a letter or type out an email or make a phone call or send a tweet [to their member of Congress], hoping that your voice would be heard on these issues. I promise you your voices have been heard. Any of you who believed your voice could make a difference—I want to reaffirm your belief. You made this happen.”
“The transportation bill is critical to our nation,” says ASCE’s executive director, Patrick J. Natale, P.E., F.ASCE. “It took a long time to get there with compromise on both sides of the aisle, so I am pleased that Congress finally got together to work to the greater benefit of society to pass a transportation bill into law.
“Without the joint effort of our Society members and ASCE’s government relations staff through our Key Contact Program and Legislative Fly-In, this would not have happened. We really appreciate the effort of our members and our staff who are involved reaching out to their legislators and asking Congress to work together and pass a bill that the president would sign.”
Policy provisions that ASCE was particularly pleased to see include extending transportation programs through September 2014, implementing expedited project delivery reforms, and instituting performance measures and goals.
MAP-21 makes significant reforms to modernize federal transportation programs, many of which ASCE has long supported. According to Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California), a coauthor of the Senate transportation bill, along with Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), those include, introduction of performance measures and targets to improve accountability, expansion of finance programs to better leverage limited federal resources, and consolidation of existing programs by two-thirds to increase efficiency and flexibility for states and cities.
“This is the greatest country in the world,” said Boxer at the Rally for Roads event cosponsored by ASCE in Washington, D.C., on March 20, to marshal public support for MAP-21. “But we will not continue to be if our infrastructure fails us. There are seventy thousand bridges that are crumbling, fifty percent of our roads are not in order, and so we clearly have to get this bill [passed].”
Boxer also said that MAP-21 includes a provision that expedites the delivery of future federal infrastructure projects and creates the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund, which would take 80 percent of fines collected from the April 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill and apply those dollars to extensive Gulf Coast cleanup efforts. And the bill would provide $400 million for transportation research and authorizes 35 competitive grants to be provided annually for University Transportation Center programs in the area of transportation research and education.
“So this is an outstanding piece of business,” concluded Obama. “And I’m very appreciative of the hard work that Congress has done on it. My hope is that this bipartisan spirit spills over into the next phase, that we can start putting more construction workers back to work—not just those [who] were already on existing projects who were threatened to be laid off, but also getting some new projects done that are vitally important to communities all across the nation and that will improve our economy.”