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Congress Commences Committees on ISTEA

 Minnesota Representative Oberstar has urged retention of the ISTEA Transportation Enhancements Programs (which include funding for landscape enhancements and scenic byway preservation): "I think they are vital,... core programs, and they need to be maintained." For more information, contact the Surface Transportation Policy Project at 202-939-3386.

The fight over the reauthorization of Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) has begun in earnest with hearings held by key committees in both the House and Senate. Committees met in February to consider three proposals for the next ISTEA: devolution, STEP 21 and "ISTEA Works."

Championing devolution were Sen. Connie Mack (R-FL) and Rep. John Kasich (R-OH) who told the committee that state DOTs could be best trusted to spend state gas tax revenues wisely. "If you let us keep the money ...we'll be able to deal more effectively with the transportation needs of our states," they said. But the debate over devolution began in earnest during the question period when ranking minority member Rep. Oberstar (D-MN) argued that it is critical to maintain a national interest in transportation; "We would not be well served by a system in which each state developed its transportation systems independently."

On behalf of the "ISTEA Works" coalition of 15 governors, New Jersey Gov. Christine Whitman (R) responded to the complaints over the allocations. While acknowledging improvements can be made, Gov. Whitman concluded: "ISTEA increases state funding flexibility, encourages intermodalism, promotes regional decision making, and links transportation investments to air quality objectives... Simply put, ISTEA works."

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June 27, 2019, 2:06 am PDT

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