NADO Issues Action Alert on Senate’s Surface Transportation Bill

Posted on: November 18th, 2011 by NADO Admin

On November 9, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) considered and unanimously approved “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” (S. 1813), their long term SAFETEA-LU reauthorization legislation.  The two-year, $109 billion measure aims to maintain existing transportation funding levels adjusted for inflation.

In the original draft Senate bill, local elected officials (particularly in rural areas) would have had a seat at the table during the state transportation planning process, the gateway for accessing federal surface transportation funding.  The bill elevated the relationship of non-metropolitan local officials with their state DOTs from “consultation” to “cooperation” and in some places “coordination.”  However, during the November 9 markup, a group of “en bloc” amendments were modified and agreed to by the Committee, including an amendment by Sen. Michael Crapo (R-ID) that negatively resets the rural local official role to “consultation,” rather than the terms of “cooperation” and “coordination” proposed in the committee’s original bill.  The amendment by Sen. Crapo reverses key parts of the committee’s original intentions to ensure a stronger state-local partnership in rural areas.

The Senate reauthorization bill would also negatively impact areas currently covered by Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) with populations between 50,000 – 200,000.  The EPW bill sets the new MPO population threshold at 200,000 with a three step process for existing small MPOs to be allowed to continue.  This includes approval by local officials in the area, Governor, and U.S. Department of Transportation.  This policy change threatens approximately 200 out of the nation’s 382 MPOs, more than 50 percent of all MPOs.  In addition, 8 states potentially will not have a MPO.  If an area served by an MPO today loses its status as part of the recertification process under the proposed new criteria, they would lose the “cooperation” status with their state DOT and be incorporated into the “consultation” category.

To learn more about this issue and how you can help click here.

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