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American ShipperIntermodalShippingTrade and Compliance

Senate subcommittee approves 2016 THUD bill

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development endorsed a fiscal year 2016 funding measure, which will now be considered by the full Senate Appropriations Committee.

   The United States Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Tuesday approved a fiscal year 2016 funding measure for the nation’s infrastructure, transportation safety and federal housing programs.
   The FY2016 THUD bill, which includes funding for the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development among other related agencies, will now be sent to the full Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.
   The $55.65 billion in discretionary spending provided by the Senate legislation is a $1.88 billion increase compared to FY2015, but still $7 billion below the President Obama’s budget request.
   The Senate subcommittee bill does not contain the four amendments related to the trucking industry that are included in the House version of the FY2016 THUD appropriations bill, a version Obama has already said he would veto if it comes to the White House, according to an online news report from TheTrucker.com. Those amendments would prohibit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration from raising the minimum liability insurance motor carriers must carry, prevent the development of roadside electronic truck inspections, require further study of a 34-hour restart program, and allow twin 33-foot trailers on all U.S. highways.
   American Trucking Associations praised the Senate THUD bill for “continued suspension and robust study of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s hours-of-service restart restrictions and modest increases in tandem trailer length, both of which will improve safety by reducing truck traffic and keeping trucks off the road during peak travel times.”
   “We know that the FMCSA’s restart restrictions increased truck traffic during the day time leading to an increase in accidents and we know that a modest increase in tandem trailer length will eliminate millions of truck trips annually,” American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves said in a statement praising the THUD bill. “Further, we know the leading causes of truck crashes are the actions of other vehicles, so the best way eliminate crashes on our highways is to limit interactions between trucks and cars. This bill takes steps to do that, and so we thank the committee members and urge the full Senate to move this bill to President Obama for his signature.”
   According to a statement from the committee, the Senate bill “provides investments and flexibility for a safer transportation network, while preserving housing assistance for the most vulnerable families.”
   “Given reduced offsets caused primarily by a $1.1 billion decline in Federal Housing Administration receipts and a $2.3 billion increase in the cost of maintaining existing rental housing vouchers, the overall Senate bill actually represents a decrease of $1.9 billion below current levels,” the subcommittee added. “The measure disregards gimmicks in the administration’s request that would have shifted certain accounts from discretionary to mandatory spending.”
   The FY2016 bill includes $17.78 billion in funding for the Department of Transportation, $17 million below FY2015 and $3.9 billion below Obama’s budget, as well as $500 million for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Grants for national infrastructure investments.
   The ailing Highway Trust Fund would contribute $40.26 billion, equal to the FY2015 enacted level, for the Federal-aid Highways Program, assuming Congress is able to enact new transportation authorization legislation, which expires this year.
   The bill provides $825 million in resources for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and $572 million for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
   The Federal Aviation Administration would receive $16 billion, $294 million above the FY2015 enacted level and $175 million above the president’s request, for all air traffic control personnel, engineers, maintenance technicians, safety inspectors and operational support personnel.
   The bill also allots $1.68 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration, an increase of $53 million from FY2015; $10.5 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, $424 million less than in FY2015; $288 million for rail safety and research programs, $12 million above FY2015; and $246 million for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration specifically intended to address safety concerns related to recent pipeline and crude oil rail accidents.
   $1.6 billion will go towards for Capital Investment Grants, also called “New Starts,” which will fully fund all current Full Funding Grant Agreement transit projects as well as new projects, and $75 million will go to core capacity projects as well as $30 million to Small Starts projects, transit capital investments planned and operated by local communities.
   The U.S. Maritime Administration would receive $373 million, $32 million more than in FY2015, “to increase the productivity, efficiency and safety of the nation’s ports and intermodal water and land transportation,” including $186 million for the Maritime Security Program.
   The remaining $37.56 billion included in the legislation is allotted for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), nearly $2 billion more than FY2015 but still $3 billion below the request. HUD funding includes money for community planning and development programs, expansion of housing and services for homeless youth, Section 8 and public housing, rental assistance, and housing for the elderly.
   “Through negotiation and compromise, this bipartisan bill makes smart investments in our nation’s infrastructure, helps meet the housing needs of the most vulnerable among us, and provides funding for economic development projects in our communities,” Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said of the measure. “From rental assistance for low-income families to safety-related provisions for our transportation infrastructure, the many critical programs funded by this bill were balanced to fund the wide range of operations that play a crucial role in reinvigorating our economy.”

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