WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins voted in favor of the bipartisan DRIVE Act, a multi-year surface transportation bill that would reauthorize highway, transit, rail and safety programs, while keeping the Highway Trust Fund solvent for the next three years. The legislation passed the Senate with bipartisan support 65–34 this afternoon. In addition to the long-term bill, Senator Collins also voted in favor of the three-month extension of highway program that was recently passed by the House of Representatives.
“The bipartisan DRIVE Act gives the state departments of transportation the certainty they need to continue planning and investing in thousands of highway and infrastructure projects that the entire nation relies on. These investments will create jobs, boost our nation’s economy, and keep us competitive in the global marketplace,” Senator Collins continued. “Despite the strong bipartisan passage of this long-term legislation in the Senate, however, we must also pass another short-term extension rather than immediately enacting a longer-term bill to prevent the Highway Trust Fund from expiring after this week.”
The current highway authorization is set to expire tomorrow, when the Highway Trust Fund will be depleted to levels that can no longer fully reimburse states for construction that has already been completed. Since 2009, Congress has passed numerous short-term extensions.
“This is a critical time of year for our country and the State of Maine, where peak construction work occurs during the short summer season. The Commissioner of Maine’s Department of Transportation has told me that if the Highway Trust Fund is not fixed by July 31, 2015, that the Department will have to have to stop construction projects mid-stream within weeks,” said Senator Collins. "This halt in construction would be devastating for our state’s economy, for the people employed in these well-paid construction jobs, and for the transportation infrastructure in desperate need of repair.”
Maine currently receives $170 million of Federal Highway funds annually, and the Maine Department of Transportation needs and obligates every single dollar. Under the long-term, bipartisan DRIVE Act, Maine would receive $187 million the first year increasing to more than $215 million. In addition, the legislation also prioritizes bridge reconstruction and safety. With more than 360 of Maine’s bridges rated as structurally deficient, funding this safety provision is urgent.
Senator Collins offered a bipartisan amendment—along with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), among 24 other colleagues—to the DRIVE Act that would authorize the highly successful TIGER grant program. This program has been an effective initiative and to date, Maine has received more than $90 million for different highway, bridge, rail and port projects that have made a significant impact on the state. Click HERE for a list of all the TIGER projects that have been awarded in Maine since the program was established in 2009.