Himes praises passage of highway funding bill
WASHINGTON, DC—Today, Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4), voted in favor of HR 22, the DRIVE Act. The bill creates long-term transportation infrastructure funding through the Highway Trust Fund, which provides a large percentage of the money for infrastructure projects across the nation and Connecticut including bridges, highways, and rail lines. The bill passed by a vote of 371-54.
Connecticut receives more than $50 million each month from the Highway Trust Fund, and federal funds account for around 70% of the funding for state transportation projects. Examples of projects supported by federal dollars range from ongoing improvements to our roads, like the Merritt Parkway, to replacing aging and structurally-deficient bridges like the Walk Bridge in Norwalk and Moses Wheeler Bridge in Milford.
“A robust transportation bill leads directly to better quality of life for us in Southwestern Connecticut,” Himes continued. “It will help create stable, family-wage construction jobs that improve the economy. It also lets us begin to address the unacceptable number of road, bridge and rail projects that need to be tackled. Metro North and I-95 carry hundreds of thousands of people who deserve safer, easier commutes through Connecticut every day. This bill puts us on the path to easing that daily commuting grind.”
However, due to a difference between outlays and revenue, the Highway Trust Fund ran a deficit of almost $13 billion in Fiscal Year 2015. Continued deficits like this, and Congress’s inability to craft a long-term resolution until now, had hampered the ability of states and localities to plan for the future.
“Passing a long-term bill will give much-needed stability and security to our infrastructure planning,” said Himes. “The shorter extensions that Congress has been passing for the past several years have left planners, legislators, and the construction industry with no clear idea of what the future holds. This insecurity leads to inaction and further deterioration of our infrastructure. For these reasons, I’m happy to see the three year bill, but hope we adopt the Senate’s six year number in conference.”
The bill will now head to conference with the Senate, which passed a similar version of a highway funding bill earlier this year. The House bill contains some of the Senate bill’s funding measures, but differs on highway policy. Specifically, the Senate bill contains more money for highway and transit programs while the House bill provides for more highway safety initiatives. The funds to pay for the bill come from a mix of sources including a liquidation and dissolution of the Federal Reserve capital surplus account and sale of some of the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Both bills authorize highway programs for six years and fund them for three years, though the House bill requires that years four through six be funded.