The long-disputed federal transportation bill has finally been passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President, after compromise from both sides of the aisle. Democrats gave up restrictions on the land and water conservation fund, while Republicans dropped provisions that would have sped up approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and one that would have prevented restrictions on coal ash use. The final bill was approved without language to prevent the U.S. EPA from regulating coal ash as hazardous waste — a potential blow to the concrete industry's reliance on fly ash as a recycled material and supplemental cementitious material.
The two-year Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) bill reauthorizes and funds the Highway Trust Fund, enabling more than $100 billion to be spent on roads, bridges, mass transit, and other transportation programs until September 2014. Bike and pedestrian paths will now compete against other transportation projects for funding.
The bill limits environmental reviews of transportation projects, to expedite construction timelines. To give states more flexibility, the bill consolidates federal transportation programs and allows 50% of Transportation Enhancements funding for construction projects. "States will be given the opportunity to opt out of burdensome requirements to spend money on planting roadside flowers if they decide they need to invest more gas tax funds on improving roads and bridges," explains Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica.
"This bill will provide a major boost to our economy by putting Americans back to work building our nationâ€™s bridges and highways," says Mica. Reportedly, the bill could create more than three million jobs.