Senate Democrats

Senate Democrats Address America’s Transportation Infrastructure and Safety Concerns

On September 12, 2007, the Senate passed H.R.3074, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, by an overwhelming, bipartisan vote of 88 to 7.  The transportation title of H.R.3074 appropriates $65.7 billion for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to address our nation’s aging transportation infrastructure, improve the safety of our transportation system, and create good paying jobs in every region of the country.

The transportation funding level in the bill (as reported) was $1.24 billion (or almost two percent) more than President Bush’s budget request.  Despite widespread concerns about the safety of our nation’s transportation infrastructure, President Bush has threatened to veto the legislation.  In spite of the veto threat, Democrats are committed to meeting the growing needs of our transportation system.

Investing in America’s roads and bridges.  Our roads, bridges, and mass transit systems require immediate attention to address safety deficiencies.  USA Today documented these needs in an August 29, 2007 article that found “at least 96 interstate highway bridges rated ‘structurally deficient’ by government inspectors in 1982 had the same rating last year, suggesting they were not fixed or had lapsed and again require repair, according to the records.  Those spans carry 3.8 million cars and trucks every day.” (“Scores of bridges ‘deficient’ since 80,” USA Today, 8/29/07.)

H.R.3074 appropriates approximately $40.26 billion to the states for growing highway infrastructure.  Within that amount, the billincreases spending by almost $900 million for bridge replacement and rehabilitation.  The Senate also passed the Murray amendment (#2792) by a vote of 60 to 33 that will provide an additional $1 billion for bridge replacement and rehabilitation — a 25 percent increase in total funding for each state’s most critical bridge-related needs.

Expanding public transportation.  Increased traffic congestion in America’s cities reduces economic competitiveness and can reduce the quality of life within America’s cities.  The most recent Urban Mobility Report from the Texas Transportation Institute found that “urban areas are not adding enough capacity, improving operations or managing demand well enough to keep congestion from growing larger.”  (“The 2005 Urban Mobility Report,” David Schrank and Tim Lomax, Texas Transportation Institute, May 2005.)

H.R.3074 provides $9.59 billion in total budget resources for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to collaborate with municipal governments to construct public mass transit systems.  The funding level approved by the Senate is $171 million more than the President’s budget request and $583 million more than the Fiscal Year 2007 enacted level. 

Improving safety on America’s roads.  Automobile accidents account for over 90 percent of all transportation-related fatalities and remain the leading cause of death and disability for Americans age three through thirty-three.  In August 2006, the latest data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System [FARS] showed that in 2005 highway fatalities numbered 43,443.  This represents the highest number of fatalities since 1990. (National Highway Transportation Safety Agency (NHTSA), Traffic Safety Facts 2005 Data).

H.R.3074 allocates $835 million for NHTSA to establish and enforce vehicle safety standards as well as highway traffic safety grants and drunk driving prevention programs.  The level of funding passed by the Senate is $14 million more than the Fiscal Year 2007 enacted level.

Addressing flight delays and cancellations.  On August 6, 2007, the DOT reported that flight delays, cancellations, passenger complaints, and boarding denials due to over-booking have all increased since last year.  The number of consumer complaints increased by 107 percent in July (1,717 complaints in July, up from 831 in July 2006), the largest increase in complaints for that month in five years.  (“Airline On-Time Performance Slips, Cancellations and Mishandled Bags Up in June,” Department of Transportation, 8/6/07).

H.R.3074 provides $14.94 billion to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to modernize and improve air traffic control, improve and expand runways, and add more air safety staff.  The bill also includes provisions that aim to improve the ability of DOT to address the growing number of passenger service complaints.

Creating jobs.  Investments in highway and infrastructure spending creates jobs and spur economic growth.  Previous studies from the DOT have shown that every billion dollars of federal investment in the nation’s transportation infrastructure supports and creates 47,500 jobs. (“Public Transportation: Benefits for the 21st Century,” American Public Transport Association.)

H.R.3074 appropriates a total of $65.7 billion for DOT and within that amount provides $40.216 billion for federal aid for highways.  The funding provided in the bill is $631 million more than what the Administration requested and $1.13 billion more than what was enacted for Fiscal Year 2007.