President Signs Transportation Reauthorization into Law; NADO Invited to Signing Ceremony

Posted on: July 9th, 2012 by NADO Admin

NADO Director of Government Relations and Legislative Affairs Deborah Cox and AMPO Executive Director DeLania Hardy with House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL) at the White House for the transportaton bill signing

On July 6, President Obama signed into law H.R. 4348, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), the long-awaited surface transportation reauthorization bill.  Deborah Cox, NADO’s Director of Government Relations and Legislative Affairs, represented NADO at the White House signing ceremony.

On June 29, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate were finally able to clear a bipartisan agreement for a two-year reauthorization of highway, public transit, and other surface transportation programs that included an extension of current student loan rates and a flood insurance reauthorization. This is the first multi-year reauthorization of surface transportation programs since the most recent long-term measure (P.L. 109-59) was signed into law in 2005. That five-year measure expired in 2009 and programs have been running on a series of extensions since.

Overall, the transportation measure reauthorizes surface transportation programs through fiscal 2014, mostly at current levels, with some programs receiving increases for inflation. It also consolidates highway programs and includes provisions to accelerate federal environmental review of construction projects.

The measure’s cost is offset with a variety of provisions, including changes to pension law and a transfer from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund to the Highway Trust Fund. The final agreement does not include provisions proposed by House Republicans to provide for the approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline or to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating coal ash.

NADO and its members have made substantial progress in promoting Regional/Rural Transportation Planning Organizations as part of the final SAFETEA-LU reauthorization conference report. The following is a brief overview of the key statewide transportation planning provisions, including impact on non-metropolitan local officials’ input to state DOTs.

The final SAFETEA-LU reauthorization compromise:

  • Establishes a formal definition and scope of work for Regional Transportation Planning Organizations (RTPOs) to serve areas outside the boundaries of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs).  It states that “a State may establish and designate regional transportation planning organizations to enhance the planning, coordination, and implementation of statewide strategic long-range transportation plans and transportation improvement programs, with an emphasis on addressing the needs of nonmetropolitan areas of the State.” There is currently no reference or definition for RTPOs and their potential work programs in federal law.
  • Requires states to “cooperate” with nonmetropolitan local officials (or if applicable, through RTPOs) in carrying out the planning sections of the bill and in the development of the Long-Range Statewide Transportation Plan with respect to nonmetropolitan areas. However, the final deal retains current language that the U.S. DOT Secretary shall not review or approve the consultation process in each state.
  • Outlines that states shall, to the maximum extent practicable, develop a consultative process for nonmetropolitan local official involvement (including through RTPOs) that is “separate and discrete” from the public involvement process.  This was a major priority of NADO.
  • Allows states to “consult” with nonmetropolitan local officials (or if applicable, through RTPOs) in the development of the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) with respect to nonmetropolitan areas. (The STIP is the 4 year program for project investments.) Similar to the Long-Range planning section, the final deal retains the current prohibition that the U.S. DOT Secretary shall not review or approve the consultation process in each state.
  • Clarifies that certain categories of federal highway projects for areas of less than 50,000 would be selected by the state “in cooperation” with affected nonmetropolitan local officials (of if applicable, through RTPOs).  For National Highway System, Interstate maintenance and bridge, and sections 5310, 5311, 5316 and 5317 transit projects, the state will select projects “in consultation” with affected nonmetropolitan local officials.
  • Under the structure of RTPOs, a fiscal and administrative agent, such as an existing regional planning and development organization, shall be selected to provide professional planning, management and administrative support.  The bill would also require RTPOs to form a policy committee and carry out specific planning and coordination activities.
  • If a State chooses not to establish or designate RTPOs, the state shall “consult” with affected nonmetropolitan local officials to determine projects that may be of regional significance.  This provision remains a major concern for NADO in states without a formal and well defined process for rural local elected official involvement in the statewide transportation planning and programming processes.

For MPOs, the final deal also:

  • Retains the current population threshold for all MPOs (existing and new) for urbanized areas of 50,000 or greater.  Transportation Management Areas (TMAs) would also remain at 200,000 or greater population.  The conference committee rejected the Senate plan to establish Tier 1, Tier 2 and Nonmetropolitan Planning Organizations within the MPO program.
  •  Requires states to coordinate with MPOs on performance measures for performance-based plans.
  • Allocates a portion of modified Transportation Enhancement program resources to TMAs in areas above 200,000.

Other rural highlights:

  • Extends the Secure Rural Schools program by one year, as proposed by the Senate, with clarification that funds for eligible Title III projects under the program must be obligated by the end of the following fiscal year but not necessarily initiated.
  •  Extends by one year the full funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program.
  • Maintains the existing structure for public transportation in rural areas, while incorporating the rural component of the “Job Access and Reverse Commute” program into the 5311 formula.
  • Establishes a new “Appalachian Development Public Transportation Program” to distribute $20 million to states within the Appalachian region.

Key resources for Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21):

 

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