The push to reform transportation policy and reduce oil dependence took a step forward on Wednesday when the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation passed the Surface Transportation and Freight Policy Act. The bill is part of the larger transportation authorization bill, which falls under the jurisdiction of four Senate committees.
The Commerce bill calls for a more goal-driven approach to national transportation and freight policy planning and evaluation, ensuring uniformity between objectives and outcomes. This approach moves us close to performance-driven project selection, as opposed to earmarks or funding formulas devoid of national objectives. Two critical objectives that were adopted are energy conservation and reducing energy use in the transportation sector, which accounts from roughly two-thirds of our nation’s oil use. This legislation also includes provision advocated for by Senator Lautenberg of New Jersey to move freight more efficiently throughout the country.
One of the major accomplishments was the addition of a complete streets amendment. Led by Senator Begich of Alaska, this amendment ensures new roads and road repairs are designed to accommodate all modes of transportation, not just motor vehicles. Complete street policies make walking, biking, and using public transportation more convenient and make our streets safer. The integrated design maximizes the efficiency and capacity of streets and can be implemented with little or no additional funding, which is a particularly attractive benefit as city and national budgets are shrinking. Over 200 local governments and 23 states all together have adopted complete streets policies. This amendment passed with unanimous, bipartisan support.
The Environment and Public Works Committee has already reported out its sections of the transportation bill The Senate Banking and Finance Committees still needs to complete their portions of the legislation before it can go before the full Senate for a vote.