The Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a transportation bill that would provide $109 billion over two years for highway programs, and calls for procedural changes to streamline government approval processes for surface transportation projects.
The bill, formally known as MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century), has been touted as a bipartisan effort, with its sponsor Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., urging the House to pass it before the latest extension of the former highway spending program expires on March 31.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., praised the chamber for the “collegial” manner in which they debated the bill. The vote was 75-22.
Along with providing states with funds to keep highway programs under way, the bill gives a $1 billion boost to the loan guarantee program created by the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation provide low-interest loans for transportation projects.
One major addition to the bill is an amendment by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., that would cut federal funding for the maintenance of roads built by the private sector.
The House is out of session this week. Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, last week indicated the House would take up the Senate bill if members could not agree on their own bill. The leadership failed to get support for a five-year $260 billion bill last month. Conservative Republicans balked at the cost, and leaders have been unable to find a package that they can support.