U.S. Senate Passes Highway Bill


The U.S. Senate yesterday passed, by a 74 to 22 vote, a $109 billion surface-transportation bill that extends federal support for a variety of highway and related infrastructure programs and projects.

The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) bill authorizes the continuation of current federal highway and transit spending levels (plus inflation) for two years. The federal 18.4-cents-per-gallon tax on gasoline and 24.4-cents-per-gallon tax on diesel remain in effect.

MAP-21 features some provisions aimed at bolstering vehicle-emissions controls, including a requirement for states and metropolitan planning organizations to prioritize projects – such as diesel retrofits – that will reduce emissions of ozone, carbon monoxide and fine particulates.

The Senate bill also requires states to direct federal highway funds toward the installation of diesel-emission control technology for off- and on-road diesel equipment that does not meet federal particulate-matter emission standards or that will operate for at least 80 hours over the life of federal highway projects being pursued in certain areas.

However, efforts to include the NAT GAS Act as an amendment to the highway bill failed on Tuesday, despite wide support for the legislation. That measure would have provided liberal incentives to promote the greater adoption of natural gas as a transportation fuel.

Existing legislation that authorizes federal highway spending expires on March 31. However, before a new highway bill can reach the president's desk for signature, the House must move on its own legislation – a goal that has been elusive, to date.

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