Our nation's infrastructure (roads, bridges, airports, rail, water) is the backbone of our economy -- and it is deteriorating at an alarming rate. Without a first-class, multi-modal transportation network, our economy will suffer and our global competitiveness will be threatened. Our level of investment has fallen to dangerously low levels when compared to the need to do vital maintenance and new projects to meet today's problems. It is striking that China invests about 9 percent of its Gross Domestic Product in infrastructure, compared with only 2.4 percent by the U.S.
As a senior Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, ensuring adequate and sound investment in our transportation systems is a major priority for Rep. Petri. On a national level, he has been committed to enacting policies that address federal needs such as ensuring the efficient movement of freight in interstate commerce and modernizing our antiquated air traffic control system to reduce delays and increase safety at airports and in the skies. On a local level, he has successfully worked over many years to lift Wisconsin out of a donor state status in terms of federal highway aid by ensuring that Wisconsin receives back its fair share of federal transportation funds.
In the 113th Congress, Rep. Petri serves on the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit (chair), the Subcommittee on Aviation, and the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management.
HIGHWAYS AND TRANSIT
In the 113th Congress, Rep. Petri serves as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. The Subcommittee has responsibility for our national surface transportation policy, construction and improvement of highway and transit facilities, implementation of safety and research programs, and regulation of commercial motor vehicle operations.
The Subcommittee will focus on implementation of MAP-21, the transportation reauthorization enacted in July of 2012 (see below for more details). Hearings will be conducted on the status of various initiatives in the law, including streamlining project delivery, program consolidations, implementation and effectiveness of new performance standards, adequacy of the freight network, and oversight of the transit new starts program. Oversight of trucking safety programs under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will also be conducted.
The major legislative initiative will be the MAP-21 reauthorization, which expires on September 30, 2014. A continuing challenge which has not been resolved is ensuring that our national infrastructure programs have adequate revenues to maintain a first-class transportation network. A particular focus will be on the sustainability of the Highway Trust Fund and consideration of both short-term and long-term financing projections and recommendations.
The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21)
On June 29, 2012, both the House and Senate approved the conference report to accompany H.R. 4348, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), to authorize the federal highway, transit and safety programs through September 30, 2014. The House vote was overwhelming, with the conference report passing by a vote of 373 to 52. The President signed it into law on July 6, 2012.
The previous authorization (known as SAFETEA-LU) expired on September 30, 2009, and action on a reauthorization bill last Congress was delayed due to a lack of resources to adequately fund the program. It operated under a series of extensions until MAP-21 was enacted in July 2012.
MAP-21 provides a total of $105 billion through fiscal year 2014 for our nation's surface transportation programs. This represents current levels of funding and inflation. It consolidates programs, reducing 90 programs to 30. In addition, MAP-21 contains provisions to significantly streamline the project approval process. Currently, it can take up to 15 years to complete a project.
Rep. Petri had voted against H.R. 7, the authorization bill approved by the House Transportation Committee in February but never brought to the House floor for a vote because due to numerous controversial proposals, primarily because it slashed highway funding for Wisconsin. However, MAP-21 essentially maintains the favorable formula we have been working with since 2005. In 2013, Wisconsin should receive about $719 million in federal highway funds (same level of funding as in 2012) and $725 million in 2014.
Rep. Petri worked with Rep. Reid Ribble (WI-08)to ensure that Valley Transit serving the Appleton area and Green Bay Metro Transit, as transit systems operating less than 100 buses in large urbanized areas, will be able to continue to use federal transit funds for operating expenses. Prior to this reform in MAP-21, transit systems which were in urbanized areas over 200,000 could not use federal funds for operating assistance. With the 2010 census, the Appleton and Green Bay urbanized areas will cross over the 200,000 threshold, yet these agencies operate only about 25 to 30 buses in peak hours. Chicago and New York City may not need this flexibility, but Valley Transit and Green Bay do and deserve to be treated in a different manner.
MAP-21 also includes provisions to strengthen highway and motor carrier safety.
Click here for more information from the Transportation Committee.
The Aviation Subcommittee oversees our national aviation program and the Federal Aviation Administration within the U.S. Department of Transportation. Rep. Petri served as Chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee in the 110th, 111th and 112th Congresses. Issues under the Subcommittee's jurisdiction include aviation infrastructure, aviation safety, operational and administrative matters within the FAA, and the air traffic control system.
The Subcommittee also has oversight and legislative jurisdiction over the National Transportation Safety Board, an independent federal agency that investigates transportation accidents and makes recommendations, as appropriate, based on the outcome of the investigation.
A major focus of the Aviation Subcommittee over the last several years was the long-overdue FAA reauthorization bill (the last reauthorization expired on September 30, 2007, and the program had to operate under a series of short term extensions). In a rare demonstration of bipartisan cooperation, the House and Senate finally came together and reached agreement on H.R. 658, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. The House and Senate passed the conference report in February and President Obama signed it into law on February 14, 2012 (P.L. 112-95).
The law is a 4-year reauthorization that provides approximately $15.9 billion per year through the end of fiscal year 2015 for airport infrastructure improvements, air traffic control and other safety and operational programs.
A major focus of the law is the program to update our air traffic control system from an antiquated ground-based radar system to a satellite-based system -- known as NextGen. NextGen, if done correctly, can provide vast improvements in our aviation system relating to safety, fewer delays (35 percent less by 2018), fewer emissions, and greater utilization of ground and air space. The FAA Modernization and Reform Act streamlines the process for development of the system, provides critical funding incentives, and sets deadlines and metrics for better measurement of NextGen progress.
In addition, it includes important provisions regarding improved safety and staffing, passenger rights, a process to consolidate aging, obsolete facilities, and reforms the Essential Air Service program that provides taxpayer subsidies to certain regions.
On October 24, 2011, the House passed H.R. 2594, the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011, which would prohibit U.S. air carriers or aircraft operators from participating in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). The EU is seeking to tax foreign carriers for emissions on flights to and from the EU -- the problem is that they would tax emissions for the entire length of the flight, even while outside EU air space where the EU has no jurisdiction. The U.S. and most of the rest of the countries of the world view this as an illegal tax. In November 2012, both the Senate and House passed similar legislation, S. 1956, and the President signed it into law on November 27, 2012. The EU has announced that it will temporarily suspend implementation of the ETS.
Another major priority of the Aviation Subcommittee under Rep. Petri's chairmanship was protecting the Global Positioning System (GPS), which is vital to aviation safety, defense activities and maritime operations, from interference from incompatible uses on the spectrum. Several hearings were held and a threat from a potential use that would have had a disastrous effect on GPS was averted.
For more on Rep. Petri's work on aviation, click here.
There are many challenges facing both the freight and passenger rail systems today. As Congress addresses the budget deficit, hard choices are being made about passenger rail in the U.S. -- for Amtrak and for the development of a high-speed rail network.
The surface transportation reauthorization bill approved by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (but never brought to the Floor of the House for a vote) contained a rail title that authorized various rail programs, reauthorized the railroad rehabilitation and improvement financing program and made various reforms relating to Amtrak, positive train control and other issues. However, agreement could not be reached with the Senate and MAP-21, the surface transportation reauthorization signed into law on July 6, 2012, did not contain any rail provisions.
High-speed rail was a major focus of attention and controversy in Wisconsin in 2010. On December 9, 2010, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that $810 million in high-speed rail funds previously designated for Wisconsin would be redirected to other states to develop high-speed rail corridors. Then on May 9, 2011, Wisconsin was denied its bid for $150 million in federal money for train sets, locomotives and a maintenance base to upgrade the popular Milwaukee-Chicago Hiawatha Line.
Rep. Petri believes it is up to each state to make the decision as to whether it wants to proceed with the development of high-speed rail. While planning was underway for over a decade, it is still the right and responsibility of our state leaders to consider the costs and benefits of moving ahead at the current time, taking into account the best interest of Wisconsin. When it became clear that the state would not move forward, the Department was within its rights to take back the $810 million that had been previously made available to the state. Rep. Petri had cosponsored legislation that
would have devoted any returned funds to deficit reduction rather than being redistributed to other projects.
Regarding freight rail, Rep. Petri has consistently supported legislation that would provide infrastructure improvements for small railroads and has been sensitive to the U.S. rail capacity crunch and 'captive shipper' issues. He has brought the Chairman of the Surface Transportation Board to the 6th District to meet with shippers and discuss concerns regarding rates and service. It is possible that the surface transportation bill to be considered by the House this Congress will contain freight and passenger rail provisions or independent legislation may be considered.