Senate Passes Final Transportation Bill

Includes Bennet-Backed Changes to Support Colorado Rural Transit and Local Community Planning Projects

 Land and Water Conservation Fund Left out of Bill

The U.S. Senate today passed a final transportation bill that provides more certainty for highway and transit projects in Colorado. The bill, which includes provisions Bennet secured to support Colorado rural transit and local community planning projects, passed with broad, bipartisan support by a vote of 74 to 19. 

“Coloradans in both rural and urban parts of the state depend on reliable roads, bridges and transit systems to travel to and from work and school on a daily basis,” Bennet said. “This bill provides certainty for state and local officials to move forward with infrastructure upgrades that will improve the safety of our entire transportation system and will ease congestion along heavily-traveled highways. It also enables Coloradans to continue to connect to good schools, good jobs and one another.”

One measure Bennet secured in the bill modifies the rural transit formula to account for the number of miles traveled on rural transit trips. The current formula considers only the rural population and land area of a state to determine its rural transit resources level each year. This common-sense improvement means that Colorado’s share of rural transit funding will increase under the new formula.

Bennet also secured a provision that authorizes $10 million per year to award competitive grants for transit-oriented development planning purposes. The program will encourage local communities to work closely with private investors to plan for the infrastructure needs around transit facilities that will promote mixed-use development, such as retail, commercial and residential space.

The final bill also includes provisions to prevent student loan rates from doubling for undergraduate college students across the country and to extend the National Flood Insurance Program through 2017. Bennet is a cosponsor of a portion of the flood insurance provision that allows the FEMA administrator to waive the 30-day waiting period for flood insurance policies purchased for private properties affected by wildfire on Federal lands.

However, the final bill does not include a Senate-passed provision for dedicated funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which supports conservation through a small portion of the royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling. 

“Coloradans take seriously the need to protect our natural heritage. LWCF is a highly-popular program that helps us preserve our land and water for the enjoyment of generations to come,” Bennet said. 

The Transportation Bill authorizes transportation programs through September 2014 and is the longest extension of these programs since the previous version expired in 2009.  The House is expected to pass the bill, which will then be sent to the White House to be signed into law.

Due to the wildfires in Colorado, Bennet was unable to attend the vote.