Manchin Applauds Passage of Long-Term Highway Bill and Export-Import Bank Reauthorization
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) today applauded the passage of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, legislation that provides $305 billion over the next five years to improve the nation’s transportation infrastructure. The legislation reforms and strengthens transportation programs, provides certainty and more flexibility for states, streamlines project approval processes and enhances transportation safety. Under the FAST Act, West Virginia will receive over $2.3 billion dollars to maintain existing infrastructure and continue construction on critical high priority corridors such as the King Coal Highway, the Coalfields Expressway, and Corridor H. The bill also includes a new national freight program that will bring $70 million to West Virginia over the next five years to support the efficient movement of goods throughout our national highway system.
Senator Manchin fought to include $50 million for high-speed broadband deployment in the Appalachian region and helped secure essential rail safety provisions that can prevent pile-ups like the one that occurred in Fayette County earlier this year.
In addition, the FAST Act reauthorizes the U.S. Export-Import Bank, a federal agency that helps American small businesses sell their products overseas. Senator Manchin has been an outspoken supporter of the agency and has called for its reauthorization since its expiration on June 30, 2015.
“For the first time in the five years that I have been in the Senate, Congress has finally come together in a bipartisan, bicameral way to craft a much-needed, long-term fix that addresses our nation’s vast transportation infrastructure challenges,” Senator Manchin said. “Twenty-eight percent of West Virginia’s 38,000 miles of public roads are in need of repair, and we cannot afford another short-term patch that just kicks the can down the road. While this legislation is not perfect, I am pleased that it increases investments in our roads and highways to create jobs, boost economic development and improve conditions in our local communities to make West Virginia a safer place to live, work, and play.
“It is also very critical for West Virginia small businesses that this bill includes the reauthorization of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which expired this summer as a result of political gamesmanship. Without the Export-Import Bank, small businesses have been left without the certainty to expand and provide services to new customers. I have always been a staunch supporter of the Export–Import Bank because it creates jobs, keeps businesses strong and boosts markets for American-made goods. With the reauthorization of this important federal agency, small businesses will again be able to benefit from the Bank’s services and expand their customer base.”
Last month, Senator Manchin urged the highway bill conference committee to include provisions in the final bill that are important for West Virginia. To read the letter, please click here.
Senator Manchin’s priorities that were included in the final bill are below:
Higher Funding Levels
The final bill authorizes the higher funding levels we need to build critical West Virginia corridors like King Coal, Coalfields Expressway and Corridor H that Senator Manchin requested in his letter to conferees, but our work is not done. We have to budget for these projects every year to ensure we can cash this check and deliver on these promises to the people of West Virginia.
The final bill provides $50 million to the Appalachian Regional Commission for a high-speed broadband deployment initiative through 2020. Senator Manchin highlighted the importance of this provision in his letter to the House and Senate conferees, and the Senate language he supported was included in the final bill.
Railroad Safety – Electronically-Controlled Pneumatic (ECP) Brakes
In May of this year, nine years after the Federal Railroad Administration first recommended Electronically-Controlled Pneumatic (ECP) brakes, the agency finalized a rule to require them on all tank cars in an effort to prevent pile-ups like the one that occurred in the Mount Carbon, West Virginia train derailment earlier this year. When the highway bill came before the Commerce Committee last summer, it repealed the new ECP brake requirement. Senator Manchin fought to protect these tough new braking standards in Committee, and they are now part of the final bill.
Railroad Safety – Emergency Responders
The final bill includes language that Senator Manchin supported that ensures State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) have the information they need to respond to incidents. This provision requires Class I railroads to generate accurate, real-time information for first responders, and it requires the Department of Transportation to establish security and confidentiality protection’s for the release of this information.
Railroad Safety – Enhanced Reporting Requirements
The final bill required the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to implement a reporting requirement to monitor industry-wide progress toward modifying tank cars used in high-hazard flammable train service. This provision will help Congress and federal regulators track progress during the transition to the safer tank cars and better understand and address bottlenecks and other systemic challenges that may impede this process. During the Commerce Committee mark-up of the rail bill, Senator Manchin offered this language as an amendment.
Railroad Safety – Streamline Federal Permitting (TRAIN Act)
The final bill reforms the environmental permitting process for rail projects to make it more efficient to complete major infrastructure investments that increase safety and system capacity. Similar reforms were already enacted for highways and bridges in 2012 and extended to waterway projects in 2014. Senator Manchin was an original cosponsor on the stand-alone bill.
Railroad Safety – Volatility Report
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of Transportation (DOT) are currently working on a study of crude oil volatility. The final bill requires those agencies, upon completion of their study, to submit a report to Congress on the findings of that study and requires the agencies to include, with that report, recommendations for either regulatory or congressional action based on the study results. Senator Manchin cosponsored this provision as an amendment during the Commerce Committee markup.
Highway Safety – Drug Free Commercial Driver Act
Currently, responsible motor carriers that are voluntarily investing in hair testing face the additional, duplicative burden of paying for urinalysis testing to comply with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations. The final bill remedies that situation by allowing hair testing to be an acceptable alternative to urinalysis after the Department of Health and Human Services issues scientific and technical guidelines within one year from the date of enactment of this bill. Senator Manchin cosponsored the stand-alone bill.
Amtrak Boarding Procedures
The final bill includes a provision, supported by West Virginia Connecting Communities and the League of American Bicyclists, which requires the Amtrak Inspector General to submit a report to Congress evaluating Amtrak’s boarding procedures, including those for passengers transporting bicycles, at its 15 busiest stations, and to make recommendations for improvements. Senator Manchin introduced this language as an amendment during the Commerce Committee markup.
Stop Motorcycle Checkpoint Funding Act
The final bill prohibits the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) from providing any grants for programs designed to check motorcycle helmet usage or to create motorcycle checkpoints with the specific goal of targeting motorcyclists and motorcycle passengers. Senator Manchin was a cosponsor of this stand-alone bill.
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