Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) lauded congressional efforts in producing a final Conference Report for the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, bipartisan legislation to fund America’s highway and transit programs for five full years without raising taxes or adding to the deficit.
“Finally, Congress is making significant headway toward implementing the longest highway reauthorization bill in more than 15 years,” said Hatch in a speech on the Senate floor. “We’ve heard time and again that a long-term highway bill would only be possible if we included a big tax increase. Yet we’ve been able to defy the odds and provide much-needed funding for America’s bridges, highways, and roads for the next five years. This marks a watershed moment for our transportation community, who will now have the security and stability they need to plan, implement, and complete critical infrastructure projects.
“While we’ve crossed a major hurdle today our job is not yet over,” Hatch continued. “I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to complete our work and ensure a strong multi-year highway bill is signed into law this year.”
Senator Hatch proposed two amendments that will greatly benefit Utah, and have been included in the underlying bill. More background and quotes from Utah supporters follow.
- Freeway Access Amendment: Clarifies MAP-21 language to grant states the existing authority to review and approve rural and urban interchange access to the Interstate System
- Reobligation of Funds: Will allow funds that have been obligated from a closed-out project to be reobligated within that same fiscal year to another project in the same category of funds
- NEPA Delegation Program Improvement: Improves the Surface Transportation Project Delivery Program (NEPA Delegation Program) by clarifying the responsibilities of participating states, by limiting the USDOT’s information-gathering authority, and making the program’s audit process less biased and more efficient.
As Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Hatch spearheaded efforts in Congress to provide funding for a bipartisan multi-year highway bill. In July, the Senate passed a long-term highway bill to reauthorize the program for six years. The measure, under Hatch’s leadership, funded the programs for a full three years.
Following House action on a separate highway bill this fall, Hatch was appointed to serve on the Highway Conference Committee, to reconcile the differences between the Senate and House bills.
The Conference Report for the FAST Act reauthorizes and fully funds America’s highway programs for five years. Congress is expected to soon vote on the conference report and send it to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
To view a full copy of Hatch’s floor remarks click here.
To view a copy of the bill text click here.
A summary of the Conference Report can be found here.
The Joint Explanatory Statement of the Committee of the Conference can be found here.
See What Transportation Leaders In Utah Are Saying About Senator Hatch’s Work For Utah
Carlos Braceras, Executive Director, Utah Department of Transportation
“We have worked closely with Senator Hatch and his staff to ensure that his approach and amendments to the Senate transportation bill take into account the most pressing needs facing the state transportation system. While there are many proposals and approaches to address transportation issues facing Utah and the rest of the country, we appreciate the Senator’s continued focus to increase the flexibility of federal funds apportioned to state and local leaders, and believe it will have the best long-term impact to improve the condition and safety of roads and bridges in our state and across the nation. I applaud his efforts to engage with us and to ensure that Utah’s transportation priorities are represented in this major national debate.”
Lane Beattie, President and CEO, Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce
“Senator Hatch, in his role as chairman of the Finance Committee, deserves our praise for his efforts to provide innovative solutions to the transportation problem our nation faces. Deterioration of our nation’s transportation system impedes economic performance by increasing transportation costs, slowing commerce and commuting and burdening an economy with future transportation investment needs. Our federal transportation program has served the nation well, and in particular, the Beehive State. Without Senator Hatch’s partnership, our state would have likely been unable to achieve the major transit and highway expansions of the last decade. I’m hopeful through his continued leadership Congress can pass a long-term transportation bill.”
Michael Allegra, President and CEO, Utah Transit Authority
“Utah’s innovative transportation and transit systems are vital to our booming business sector and growing population. Whether it be light-rail, commuter rail or buses, we have made tremendous strides in safety and efficiency for our community. Senator Hatch’s work to ensure stable federal funding over a more reliable period of time will help us continue to lead, bringing great businesses and jobs into Utah, and granting Utahns the best possible access to our state.”
Utah Transportation Facts
13%- Percentage of Utah’s major roads are in poor condition
$424– Cost of vehicle maintenance related to poor road conditions (per motorist)
220- Number of fatalities on Utah state highways in 2013
70- Transportation projects at risk in Utah without federal investment
What the DRIVE Act does for Utah
The FAST Act will provide long-term funding certainty, without which the state would not have access to $1 billion in federal funds. In the first 3 years of the FAST Act, Utah will receive $39,087,642 million in additional growth of the existing programs for freight alone. A long-term transportation funding bill will give Utah the ability to properly plan and prepare for up to 50 years. With a focus on innovation, Utah can better deploy technology to improve the state transportation network.
You can find out more about what the FAST Act does for Utah here.