Wicker Supports Far-Reaching Highway Bill

DRIVE Act Offers Long-Term, Broad Transportation Solution

June 24, 2015

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, today voted in favor of a six-year highway funding bill titled the “Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act.” The legislation would provide a long-term strategic plan for critical transportation and infrastructure projects, including improvements in Mississippi. The measure awaits consideration by the full Senate following review by the Senate Finance Committee, Senate Banking Committee, and the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.

“Continued investment in our infrastructure would allow us to remain economically competitive, create jobs, and provide stability for local communities,” Wicker said. “Mississippi and other rural states will benefit from these important federal investments in transportation.”

Wicker was successful in adding an amendment that would specifically allow local governments and metropolitan planning organizations to receive grants under the Technology and Innovation Deployment Program.

The bill also includes the reauthorization of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), which would approve $100 million annually over the next five years, including $10 million a year to improve rural broadband services. ARC is a regional economic development agency that funds projects to increase job opportunities, strengthen the capacity of the people of Appalachia, develop and improve Appalachia’s infrastructure, and build the Appalachian Development Highway System.

“Mississippi has continually benefited from ARC’s critical, job-creating investments in rural areas. This package would also help establish necessary improvements to rural broadband service that promise to have an enormous impact on economic growth throughout the region.”

Authorizations and programs in the bill would:

  • Fully fund highway programs for six years, reauthorizing the federal-aid highway program at an increased funding level from FY 2016 through FY 2021. In Mississippi, the apportionment for FY 2016 is more than $501 million and – when adjusted for inflation – increases to more than $562 million for FY 2021.
  • Increase support for core formula programs by maintaining the MAP-21 program structure, including:
    • National Highway Performance Program;
    • Highway Safety Improvement Program;
    • Surface Transportation Program; and
    • Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program.
  • Prioritize bridges and large, nationally important facilities by dramatically increasing funding required to be spent on projects to maintain bridges off of the National Highway System.
  • Provide substantial new funding to focus on freight and goods movement by establishing a formula-based freight program that funds all states to improve transportation of goods. This program – potentially impacting Mississippi’s Interstate 69 – was established in MAP-21 but not funded until now. Mississippi is estimated to receive more than $24.6 million for FY 2016, which would increase to $30.7 million for FY 2021.
  • Accelerate project delivery and increase flexibility by continuing to speed up the project delivery process formed in MAP-21 while protecting the environment and public health.
  • Expand flexibility and opportunities for infrastructure investment in rural areas by offering new options to bundle small projects together to increase efficiency. This would empower states to work with the Department of Transportation to develop ways to help fund small community projects.