After tacking on two amendments that won support from transit advocates, the Senate today passed a two-year transportation bill that will reduce funding for privatized highways and ensure that cities have access to money for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
Far less restrictive than its counterpart in the House—the many failings of which have already been discussed at length—the Senate bill, MAP-21, will give states and cities more freedom to choose which local projects to fund with federal money. One addition, the Cardin-Cochran amendment, establishes a competitive grant program that local governments can use to make a variety of street-level improvements, including pedestrian safety measures, boulevard conversions and bike facilities.
Another amendment allocates up to 40 percent of highway funding to go toward fixing bridges. Meanwhile, states will receive less money for highway maintenance to account for roads that have been privatized.
Overall, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid predicted that the bill will save or create 2.8 million jobs and repair 70,000 failing bridges. The Transportation for America coalition praised the bill, saying that it “improves mobility and travel options for Americans rich and poor, urban and rural, while preserving our existing infrastructure.”
The $109 billion legislation enjoyed uncharacteristically bipartisan support, passing with a vote of 74-22. Its most controversial amendment, which would have approved the once-rejected Keystone XL oil pipeline (and which had nothing to do with transportation), failed to reach the required 60 votes to pass.
The House now must decide whether to adopt the Senate bill, or land on a bipartisan agreement of its own. The current transportation bill expires in just over two weeks.