The federal transportation bill signed into law by President Barack Obama in July will have its ramifications throughout upstate New York, said U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna during a roundtable discussion at the Radisson Hotel on Wednesday.
Hanna and Alex Hergott, director of transportation policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, met with state Department of Transportation officials, Mohawk Valley Chamber of Commerce members and Utica business representatives to discuss the benefits of the law known as Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century.
“This is an America jobs bill. That’s ultimately what it is,” said Hanna, R,I,C - Barneveld.
New York state will receive approximately $1.6 billion in highway funding in 2013 and 2014, for a total of $3.2 billion. Hanna said state DOT officials are making the decisions about how to handle the funding from the federal government since no earmarks are associated with it.
“There are no earmarks so that the community has a bigger say in this bill,” said Hanna.
Lawmakers, however, had less of an incentive to get behind the bill without the earmarks, said Hanna, and much compromising needed to be done on both sides of the aisle to get the bill signed into law. “We’re lucky to get a bill. There was just as much anger, rejection and frustration on one side as on the other side,” he said.
“It’s a continuation of funding that we have now,” said Jim Piccola, Jr., the regional public information officer for the DOT. “No specific projects are targeted. It’s part of our every day-to-day funding.”
A local project that will benefit from the funding will be the 12 North/South Arterial project.
Under MAP-21 a total of $105 billion will be authorized for the nation’s surface transportation programs. The law also consolidates and reduces over 100 programs in the federal highway program to just over 30 program, and creates four core programs built around national interests, such as national highway performance and highway safety improvement.
Among the economic benefits of the bill will be the creation of 34,000 jobs, and, according to estimates from Standard & Poor, each dollar invested in highway construction will generate $1.80 of gross domestic product.
The last transportation law — Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient, Transportation Equity Act - A Legacy for Users — expired in 2009 and several extensions were enacted to keep money flowing.
Hergott addressed the Chamber members at the meeting about the history of the federal highway program and what the new bill means for New York and the rest of the country.
“This is a primary, federal responsibility,” said Hergott. “The American people need a bill like this. We’ve been pushing for this bill for years. We’re very delighted we can get something done.”
Page 2 of 2 - According to Hanna’s website, he is the vice chairman of the house subcommittee on highways and transit and played an integral role in negotiating the final bill as a member of the House - Senate Conference Committee. He said he met personally with the leading Democrats and leading Republicans on the conference committee.
“[The committee], they get it, they know how important this is,” he said. “And it’s great to be part of something so productive.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is touring the country this month to educate local Chambers and business communities on how the law will benefit them.