Senator: Let states use federal highway money for local projects

Senator: Let states use federal highway money for local projects
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Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandIt's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process Hillicon Valley: Uber to lay off thousands of employees | Facebook content moderation board announces members | Lawmakers introduce bill to cut down online child exploitation Democrats introduce legislation to protect children from online exploitation MORE (D-N.Y.) is introducing an amendment that would allow states to use federal transportation money on local bridge construction projects. 

Federal law currently limits the amount of federal money that can be used on infrastructure projects that are not related to federally-owned roads like interstate highways. 

Gillibrand said the prohibition should be lifted in the next transportation funding bill, which is scheduled to be taken up by Congress this summer. 

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“As hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers get ready to take to the roads for summer vacations, more than a third of our state’s bridges are in need of repair but bureaucratic federal policy actually prevents our local governments from investing in their repair,” she said in a statement. 

“My amendment will finally give states the flexibility to spend federal transportation dollars where they’re needed most, including thousands of locally-owned bridges across the state,” Gillibrand continued. “This is among my priorities for the federal transportation spending bill we’ll pass this year, and I will continue to fight to ensure that New York receives the resources it needs to maintain and improve our critical infrastructure.”

Gillibrand’s amendment comes at a time when the future of federal transportation is uncertain. Lawmakers passed a bill to extend the funding last month, but it only lasts until July 31. 

Lawmakers have been trying to craft a longer transportation funding measure, but they have struggled to come up with a way to pay for it. 

The traditional source of transportation funding has been revenue from the 18.4-cent-per-gallon federal gas tax. The tax has not been increased since 1993, however, and improvements in auto fuel efficiency have sapped its purchasing power. 

The federal government typically spends about $50 billion per year on transportation projects, but the gas tax only brings in $34 billion at its current rate. 

Transportation advocates have pushed for an increase in the gas tax to pay for a long-term infrastructure package, but Republicans say asking drivers to pay more at the pump is a nonstarter. 

The standoff has resulted in a string of temporary transportation bills that has lasted for a decade. Congress has not passed a transportation funding bill that lasts longer than two years since 2005. 

Gillibrand’s office said her amendment “would redirect existing dollars to restore bridge funding and ensure that local governments have the flexibility to determine which projects receive investment” while lawmakers continue working on a longer funding solution.