WASHINGTON – Today, Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Chairman Tim Johnson took to the Senate Floor to present the Committee’s public transportation bill. The bill, authored by Chairman Johnson, will be attached to the Surface Transportation bill currently being considered by the full Senate. Senator Johnson’s bill, which received unanimous bipartisan support in Committee, maintains current funding levels, improves safety oversight, and streamlines the construction of public transportation projects.
In contrast, the House Surface Transportation bill eliminates dedicated funding for public transportation and is extremely partisan. It is opposed by many House Republicans, most House Democrats and President Obama’s Republican Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood.
The two-year reauthorization stands to benefit transit service in South Dakota in several important ways. The bill includes a new formula for allocating funds for rural areas, which gives greater weight to a state’s land area and the level of service provided. To help transit systems maintain their infrastructure, the bill establishes a nationwide State of Good Repair program that will provide $1 million annually to South Dakota.
If enacted, these changes will increase South Dakota’s overall annual transit funding by more than $2.4 million compared with fiscal year 2011, an increase of 26%.
Below are Chairman Johnson’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Mr. President, I am pleased to present the Banking Committee’s public transportation bill to the Senate as an amendment to the surface transportation legislation now before us. The transit bill was reported by our Committee unanimously earlier this month.
“Maintaining investment in our nation’s transportation infrastructure is priority of mine and of our Committee. I want to thank our Committee’s ranking member, Senator Shelby, who has worked for a long time on this bill. Without his support, this bi-partisan legislation would not be possible. I also want to thank our subcommittee chairman, Senator Menendez, and all of the members of the Committee that offered contributions to our product.
“With this bill, we have the opportunity to preserve public transportation funding for two years at current levels and deliver critical investments in the nation’s aging transit infrastructure. In addition, the bill will institute much needed reforms such as eliminating earmarks and speeding the construction of public transportation projects.
“The bill also includes transit safety provisions that have been stalled for 2 years. These are important reforms that many Senators have worked on. Now is the time to move them forward.
“Finally, our bill increases formula funding for all types of transit: additional urban and rural formula funds, new money for every state to address state of good repair needs and more money for tribal transit. Our nation’s transit systems need more $77 billion to address backlogged repairs. This bill can’t address all of those needs, but it can ensure that our transit systems don’t fall further behind, and transit funding will support more than 386,000 jobs.
“Mr. President, Americans make 35 million trips on public transportation every weekday. Many of these trips are in our cities, but in places like South Dakota rural transit service connects seniors with their doctors and helps our workers travel long distances to get to jobs. Everyone benefits from public transportation, and I urge Senators to support this bi-partisan bill.
“I yield the floor.”