Senate Democrats

H.R. 1195, the SAFETEA-LU Technical Corrections Act of 2008

Summary and Background

In the 109th Congress, Congress passed and President Bush signed the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), which authorized funding for our nation’s highways, transit, and highway safety programs through the end of Fiscal Year 2009.  Since that time, drafting errors and some legislative language have yielded unintended consequences.  These errors and oversights need to be addressed to ensure the various programs authorized in SAFETEA-LU can be implemented as Congress intended.

In order to help meet that challenge, the Environment and Public Works Committee, under the leadership of Senator Boxer, unanimously approved an amendment to H.R.1195 in June 2007 that would correct certain technical deficiencies in SAFETEA-LU.  Since that time, additional issues that need to be addressed have been identified and are reflected in an a amendment in the nature of a substitute that has been filed by Senator Boxer.  In cooperation, Chairman Dodd and the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee in May approved by voice vote S.1611 which makes up the majority of Title II of the Boxer amendment to H.R.1195.  This non-controversial legislation corrects drafting errors, makes technical changes, and clarifies congressional intent.  H.R.1195, as revised, will not increase spending and it complies with earmark disclosure requirements of Senate Rule 44 even though it only addresses changes to previously authorized projects.

The passage of this bill is important during the economic downturn because ensuring investment in infrastructure is one of the best ways to stimulate our economy  Infrastructure investments provide immediate economic stimulus through job creation and long-term economic benefits through reduced transportation costs. 

Major Provisions

Title I-Highway Provisions

The Boxer amendment in the nature of a substitute to H.R.1195 would amend SAFETEA-LU by correcting its references to:

  • Disadvantaged business enterprises;
  • Distribution of obligation authority;
  • Federal lands highways;
  • Forest highways;
  • National corridor infrastructure improvement projects; and
  • High priority designations.

The Boxer amendment in the nature of a substitute to H.R.1195 would:

  • Amend Section 1964 of SAFETEA-LU to ensure all states with large amounts of federal lands can use a sliding scale to determine the required state/local match for various projects.
  • Provide contract authority for magnetic levitation train (MAGLEV) projects through Fiscal Year 2009;
  • Change the item description for a project of national significance to allow for a decrease in the funding amount for the planning, design and construction of the Blue Water Bridge near Port Huron, Michigan in order to allow for integrated highway realignment and reduced road blockages from NAFTA rail traffic;
  • Amend a project authorization for transportation improvements associated with the rail yard relocation in the vicinity of Santa Teresa, New Mexico;
  • Amend a project authorization for the redesign and reconstruction of interchanges along Interstate-80 in Monroe County, Indiana;
  • Amend aNational Corridor Infrastructure ImprovementProjectto allow for improvements to be made to State Road 312 in Hammond, Indiana;
  • Repeal the authorization for states to permit the electrification of idling reduction facilities at highway rest stops;
  • Amend numerous project authorizations contained in Section 1702 of SAFETEA-LU;
  • Amend Section 1807 of SAFETEA-LU by eliminating the reference to St. Paul, Minnesota;
  • Amend Section 1908 of SAFETEA-LU to correct the National Highway System designation in Arkansas;
  • Amend Sections 1928 of SAFETEA-LU to include a sense of Congress on the Federal Highway Administration’s application of Buy America requirements;
  • Amend numerous project authorizations contained in Section 1934 of SAFETEA-LU;
  • Amend Section 1961 of SAFETEA-LU to allow for the design of the Interstate-95/Contee Road interchange in Prince George’s County, Maryland;
  • Restore funding to the Surface Transportation Research Development and Deployment (STRDD) account with a take down from the core highway programs. This account was oversubscribed due to an error in SAFETEA-LU and has meant funding has not been available for FHWA to conduct its legacy research programs and research activities.
  • Amend the rescission included in Section 10212 of SAFETEA-LU;
  • Amend projects authorized in the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century;
  • Amend projects authorized in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 to ensure authorized funding to various state routes and Interstate 76;
  • Amend the definition of “repeat intoxicated driver law” in Section 164 of Title 23 USC;
  • Increase the authorized grant level for university transportation research;
  • Require the Secretary of Transportation, in the event it makes a finding under Section 313(b) of the Buy America Act, to publish the reasoning about why a finding might be needed in the Federal Register before the Secretary makes a decision and allow an opportunity for public comment. Additionally, a report that contains the preceding years finding justifications must be submitted by the Secretary to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the House and the Environment and Public Works Committee in the Senate by February 1 of each year;
  • Study the impacts of converting left and right highway safety shoulders to travel lanes;
  • Designate the Audubon Parkway as a future spur to Interstate 69 and Natcher Parkway as a future spur to Interstate 66; and
  • Make technical corrections to the enactment date of this bill and allow for greater project flexibility.

Title II-Transit Provisions

 The Boxer amendment in the nature of a substitute to H.R.1195 would:

  • Ensure the proper funds are available for the transportation planning process, environmental reviews, preliminary engineering, and design to complete environmental documentation for Lake Tahoe transportation projects;
  • Make technical, cross-reference, mathematical, and drafting corrections for a wide variety of provisions;
  • Clarifies Congressional intent regarding New Starts evaluations and that state administrative expenses are not subject to matching requirements under the rural formula program;
  • Names the transit in parks program after its author, Senator Paul S. Sarbanes, and clarifies that the Federal Transit Administration can transfer funds to appropriate federal land management agencies to help administer the program;
  • Allows for reimbursement up to $3 million for operation of public transit service following the freeway collapse in Oakland, CA;
  • Corrects or clarifies project designations in the alternatives analysis, new starts, bus discretionary, and research programs.  Provides that small starts projects which are recommended by the Federal Transit Administration for funding or a project construction grant agreement in FY2008 and FY2009 are authorized to receive such funding or agreement.; and
  • Clarifies that architectural, engineering, and design contracts can be awarded under a State qualifications-based requirement if the state requirement was adopted before enactment of SAFETEA-LU, but that certain other federal requirements continue to apply to such contracts. 

Title III-Other Surface Transportation Provisions

The Boxer amendment in the nature of a substitute to H.R.1195 would:

  • Make technical changes related to motor carrier safety, hazardous material transfer, highway safety, on-scene motor vehicle collision causation, motor carrier transportation registration, the applicability of the Fair Labor Standards Act requirements.

Title IV-Miscellaneous Provisions

The Boxer amendment in the nature of a substitute to H.R.1195 would:

  • Convey the 78,000 square feet Fleet Management Center in Anchorage, Alaska that is currently owned by the General Services Administration to the Alaska Railroad Corporation (an entity of the State of Alaska); and
  • Convey any interest the United States has obtained from the St. Joseph Memorial Hall in St. Joseph, Michigan to the City of St. Joseph.

Title V-Other Provisions

The Boxer amendment in the nature of a substitute to H.R.1195 would:

  • Authorize an additional $20 million for an environmental infrastructure project in Desoto, Mississippi.

Legislative History

The Committee on Environment and Public Works unanimously approved an amendment to H.R.1195 on June 6, 2007.  The Committee reported H.R.1195 and Senator Boxer filed an amendment in the nature of a substitute on March 7, 2008.

The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee approved S.1611 by voice vote on May 16, 2007.

Expected Amendments

The DPC will distribute information on amendments as it becomes available to its “DPC-Transportation” e-mail list.

Administration Position

At the time of publication, the Bush Administration had not yet released a Statement of Administration Position on the Environment and Public Works Committee amendment to H.R.1195.