HTML _ 97-516 - ISTEA Reauthorization: Highway Related Legislative Proposals in the 105th Congress
23-Oct-1997; John Fischer; 31 p.

Abstract: Authorizing legislation for federal surface transportation programs highway, highway safety, and transit expired at the end of FY1997. The federal framework for these programs was created by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (P.L. 102-240), better known as ISTEA. ISTEA was the first major highway act of the post interstate highway construction era. As such, it is regarded as landmark legislation. This report compares the major programmatic elements of significant legislative proposals to reauthorize the federal- aid highway program created by ISTEA. The discussion of each piece of legislation is presented in the order in which it was introduced in the 105th Congress. The report looks at the policy objectives and outcomes sought by each initiative. It is not intended as a detailed section-by-section comparison of each legislative proposal. This report does not examine safety and transit proposals. In addition, it now appears that the ISTEA reauthorization debate will become a forum for a number of government wide policy issues that are not necessarily transportation related and are not the focus of this report. These include issues such as set-asides for disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs) and continuation of Davis-Bacon wage rules. The reauthorization bills discussed in this report can be classified as falling into a couple of general policy frameworks. One of these takes the position that ISTEA, as enacted in 1991, is a good starting point for a discussion about how to run the federal-aid highway program in the future. In this view, ISTEA needs refinement, enhancement, and improvement, but major changes are unwarranted. Programs that emphasize important national goals, such as clean air, are viewed as requiring special legislative treatment. The alternate view is that ISTEA is too bureaucratic and constraining. What the federal-aid program needs, in this view, is restructuring with more control and decision making pushed down to the state and local level. National needs, in this view, are important, but states should be given as much leeway as possible in meeting those needs that are appropriate to conditions in their state. Within this second view, there are differing opinions about how to structure legislation to meet identified national needs. Every reauthorization of the federal-aid highway program since 1956 has expanded the program in either scope or size, or both. Prior to the beginning of the 105th Congress, there was an expectation that the drive to balance the federal budget might end this trend. Based on legislation introduced in the 105th Congress to date, however, it would appear that program proponents expect growth in the program to continue, and, in some instances, at a dramatically higher level of funding. Note: The expiration of ISTEA does not stop all federal-aid highway projects. States can continue to expend funds obligated by ISTEA for ongoing and, in some cases, new projects. [read report]

Topics: Transportation

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