At a public rollout event yesterday followed by a Q&A session with the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Florida Congressman John Mica outlined a broad transportation reauthorization proposal.  Labeled “A New Direction” by Chairman Mica, the proposal offers a significant reduction in federal investment in transportation. 

The Chairman is promising greater value for six-year highway and transit investments at lower funding levels through key programmatic reforms, a more streamlined project review and approval process and a strengthened  Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program. 

The reauthorization proposal is missing measures that are targeted to reduce congestion, improve highway freight mobility and address longer term solvency challenges of the Highway Trust Fund.  Nevertheless, the Chairman’s two hour event gave the reauthorization conversation some needed momentum and was a good first-step.

Across the Capitol, Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer pre-empted Chairman Mica yesterday by reiterating her intention to reporters that she will soon introduce a bipartisan two-year reauthorization proposal that maintains federal funding at current FY 2011 levels. However, an additional $12 billion in funding will be needed to support the Senate proposal and Highway Trust Fund solvency issues will remain problematic in 2013 as the account is drawn down over two years.  

Manufacturers are pleased to see the process beginning to unfold and commend both Chairmen for getting the ball rolling sooner rather than later.  As our international competitors in Asia, Europe and South America continue to ramp up investments in transportation infrastructure, multi-year and complex transportation investments such as new bridge replacements, improved interchanges, transit upgrades, and additional capacity to relieve congestion must be fully embraced by both the House and Senate.  As the world’s largest manufacturing economy, the United States needs long-term investments in transportation at robust funding levels and a comprehensive infrastructure strategy to help maintain our competitiveness.

Robyn Boerstling is director of infrastructure, legal and regulatory policy, National Association of Manufacturers.