Senate Commerce panel schedules hearing on $265B highway bill

 

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has scheduled a hearing on a $265 billion transportation funding bill that was approved by a separate panel earlier this month, committee officials said Monday.

The measure, which is a reauthorization of transportation funding that is scheduled to expire in September, originated in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

The Commerce Committee, which shares jurisdiction over transportation issues, will hold its own hearing on the bill on June 3.

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The road and transit funding bill is intended to renew the 2012 Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act.

The measure was approved unanimously by the Senate Public Works Committee, but lawmakers have to find approximately $100 billion to help pay for it.

The normal funding source for transportation projects is the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gas tax, which is renewed by the bill.

The gas tax has not been increased since 1993 however, and it brings in approximately $34 billion per year.

The current level of federal transportation is approximately $50 billion per year.

The Senate's proposed transportation bill calls for maintaining the current level of funding, adjusted for inflation. Transportation advocates have said the current funding levels are the bare minimum that can be spent on road and transit projects to maintain the state of the nation's infrastructure.

The Public Works and Commerce committees have both said that finding the extra money to help pay for the bill would be left up to the Senate's Finance Committee.

The Commerce Committee said Monday that its June 3 hearing would focus on the programs and projects that are being authorized for funding by the transportation bill, not where the money was going to come from.

"This will focus on the surface transportation reauthorization and evaluate the safety and effectiveness of rail, motor carrier, hazardous materials, and research programs currently administered through the U.S. Department of Transportation," the panel said.