President Obama to sign highway bill into law today

July 6, 2012
Bipartisan measure will run for 27 months

President Obama is slated to sign the new highway bill—MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act) —into law this afternoon at a White House ceremony. His signature will come one thousand and ten days after the last surface-transportation reauthorization legislation (SAFETEA-LU) expired. MAP-21 will expire in 27 months-- about a month before the 2014 Congressional mid-term elections.

Since most of MAP-21’s new provisions are effective October 1st, “the bill is essentially a final three-month extension of SAFETEA-LU combined with a new two-year authorization of the federal highway, transit and safety programs,” pointed out the American Road & Transportation Builders Assn., which has published a detailed report on the legislation’s content.

An estimate for the highway bill’s total cost “about $118 billion (the $105-billion figure oft-used is only for two full years),” stated a post on the Morning Transportation blog.

Among MAP-21’s provisions is language endorsing a mandate for electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) that is currently being promulgated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). A final EOBR rule is expected to be released next year.

MAP-21 ” puts FMCSA EOBR rulemaking on the fast track, as it has one year to issue the final rule and a three-year window [for the rule] to go into effect,” pointed out Dave Kraft, director of industry affairs for EOBR supplier Qualcomm Enterprise Services.

Kraft went on to explain that the “later implementation timeframe poses the most challenges for the industry. New wireless/electronic inspection methods for EOBR log enforcement are expected to use expanded data for GPS and more detailed vehicle sensor data for computerized analysis of log data compliance and system integrity.”

“The [EOBR] legislation largely falls in line with the performance requirements language that Qualcomm recommended,” Kraft noted. “This includes: standard information displays for drivers and enforcement; secure process for driver identification and log recording/entries; standards-based approach to security and tamper resistance; secure data transfer and portability; third-party certification; and automated approach to hours-of-service supporting documents.”

“This is a good, bipartisan bill that will create jobs, strengthen our transportation system and grow our economy,” said Secy. of Transportation Ray LaHood.  “It builds on our aggressive safety efforts, including our fight against distracted driving and our push to improve transit and motor carrier safety.  

“The bill also provides states and communities with two years of steady funding to build the roads, bridges and transit systems they need,” LaHood added. “We look forward to working with Congress, states and local communities to put this bill to work quickly and effectively.”

Both the House and Senate gave final passage of the highway bill strong backing (373 “Yeas” in the House and 74 in the Senate) that included remarkable bipartisan support. A transportation update posted by global consulting firm Parsons Brinckerhoff, noted that only 52 House Republicans and 19 Senate Republicans voted "No" on the bill and no Democrats voted against it.

“This bill is an excellent example of what can happen when individuals set aside differences and move past political point making to work on a bipartisan basis to get things done," pointed out Ted Ellis, president of the National League of Cities, and Mayor of the City of Bluffton, IN, in a statement.

"It is often said that potholes do not have a party affiliation," Ellis added. "The same can be said for many other issues as well.  Our national economy needs, and our residents have a right to expect, Congress and the Administration to work together and give cities the tools, like the transportation bill, to drive economic growth.” 

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