WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Ranking Member of the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee, announced today that she has secured critical federal funding for transportation infrastructure and housing programs in the Fiscal Year 2015 funding bill that was unveiled late Tuesday. The bill contains provisions, authored by Senator Collins and overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee in June, to improve safety on our nation’s roadways and to study the impacts of federal regulations forcing trucks to drive during crowded, morning rush hour times rather than overnight when the roads are less congested.
“I have worked hard to improve Maine’s, and our nation’s, transportation system by ensuring that taxpayer dollars are appropriately invested in our infrastructure such as roads, bridges, ports, and railroads, which creates good-paying jobs and benefits our economy,” said Senator Collins. “In addition, this bill will help ensure that individuals and families have access to affordable and safe housing, including funding to help individuals break the cycle of homelessness, and it includes a significant investment in the Community Development Block Grant program to help communities nationwide address a wide range of unique community and economic development needs.”
Highlights of the FY2015 THUD funding bill include:
• $500 million to continue supporting critical transportation infrastructure investments through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grant program. Senator Collins is a strong advocate for the TIGER program. She has fought for robust funding since it was established in 2009. She has strongly supported Maine’s applications under the TIGER program, resulting in more than $90 million for projects in the state, including key projects such as the replacements of bridges in Kittery, Dresden-Richmond, and Rumford, and the breakwater in Eastport. Maine has received funding in every round of the highly competitive program.
• The bill provides additional resources for the safe transportation of crude oil and other energy products, including funds to support web-based HAZMAT training, a provision Senator Collins strongly advocated for in the wake of the horrendous rail accident in Lac-Megantic, Quebec in July 2013.
• The bill continues to advance and modernize our nation’s aviation systems while keeping rural communities connected to the transportation network.
• The bill contains a provision authored by Senator Collins, and approved by a bipartisan 21 to 9 vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee in June, to temporarily suspend two new restrictions imposed on commercial motor vehicle drivers that mandate two consecutive rest periods between 1am and 5am, and limit the use of the “restart” to just once per week. These two regulations are suspended for one year during which the Secretary of the Department of Transportation will conduct a study of the operational, safety, health, and fatigue impacts of these regulations. Since first implemented last year, these regulations have forced large trucks onto roads during daytime rush hour, which is statistically the riskiest time of day for crashes. Former administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Annette Sandberg says this temporary suspension “makes the roads safer.” The National Fraternal Order of Police says the change “only makes sense from a public safety perspective.”
“I care deeply about safety on our nation’s roads, and no one wants to see an accident caused by driver fatigue or by any other cause. What has become clear is that new federal rules, implemented last year, have presented some unintended and unanticipated consequences that are not in the best interest of public safety, truck drivers, or the businesses and consumers who depend on their services,” said Senator Collins. “Despite misinformation being circulated, this provision does not impose or propose a permanent repeal of the hours of service regulations, nor does it suspend all of the changes to the hours of service regulations that were implemented in July 2013 as others have proposed. This provision does not change the maximum number of hours per day that a driver can be behind the wheel. It does not change the mandatory 30-minute meal or rest break during a shift. It does not change the total on-duty hours in each shift. It does not change the minimum off-duty hours required between shifts or the requirement that will be implemented for electronic onboard recorders.
“What this provision, that was debated and approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee, does do however, is provide temporary relief from two provisions of the hours of service regulations that prevent a driver from driving between 1am and 5am for two consecutive nights and prohibits drivers from taking a 34-hour restart more than once a week. There is increasing concern that these regulations are forcing more trucks on the road during the most congested morning hours – during a time when commuters are traveling to work and children are traveling to school.”
• The bill continues funding important programs that have helped reduce homelessness across the country. Since 2010, veterans’ homelessness has decreased by 33 percent and chronic homelessness by 21 percent. More than $2.2 billion is provided for Homeless Assistance Grants and approximately 10,000 new housing vouchers for homeless veterans. Additionally, the bill directs the Department of Housing and Urban Development to work with communities to promote youth-appropriate housing options and emphasize youth housing as a part of its annual homeless funding competition.
• Section 202 Housing for the Elderly renewals are fully funded to ensure all existing properties are supported.
• $3 billion is provided for the Community Development Block Grant program to support state and local economic development efforts.