President Bush has signed legislation that makes "technical corrections" to the 2005 SAFETEA-LU bill, clearing the way for an estimated $1 billion in delayed highway projects to move forward. Bush signed the measure on June 6, without commenting on the bill.
The White House had voiced opposition to the bill, but the House and Senate had passed it with veto-proof margins. Final congressional approval came on April 30, but the bill wasn't formally delivered to the White House until June 3.
The legislation contains changes in more than 400 projects authorized in SAFETEA-LU, whose full title is the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act--a Legacy for Users." Some of the alterations were due to mistakes in the mammoth 2005 measure in projects' route numbers and locations. The corrections bill also gives higher authorizations to some SAFETEA-LU projects, and deleted others.
Many projects had been blocked from advancing because of the errors in the
2005 SAFETEA-LU statute. According to Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the new bill's changes will affect up to $1 billion in infrastructure work.
The measure also authorizes a boost for federal and university highway research programs and provides $90 million in contract authority for magnetic-levitation transportation plans. Half of the mag-lev aid would go to the Nevada Dept. of Transportation and the other half to projects east of the Mississippi River.
In addition, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) said that the corrections bill "includes clarifying language that will ensure that the Federal Transit Administration employs a multi-measure approach to rating projects, and recognizes the environmental benefits to be achieved through the development of these facilities."
Transit industry officials had criticized a proposed rule FTA issued last August dealing with criteria for evaluating new transit starts.