WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, issued the following statement on the Senate’s bipartisan passage of the five-year Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act conference report. The FAST Act contains several Thune-led transportation and safety initiatives that benefit South Dakota, including provisions that were included in the Senate’s multi-year transportation bill that passed earlier this summer. Following a 359-65 vote in the House of Representatives, the Senate approved the measure by a vote of 83-16. The bill will now be sent to the president for his signature.
“Passing a bipartisan, multi-year transportation bill is a big win for America, especially for states like South Dakota that depend on a reliable and effective transportation system,” said Thune. “This bill, which will soon reverse the trend of passing one short-term patch after another, will end uncertainty for our transportation system and make important investments in infrastructure projects in our state and around the country. These necessary investments will spur much-needed job creation and sustained economic growth in communities across our region.
“I am proud of the work the Commerce Committee contributed to this effort and was humbled to have been selected to serve on the conference committee that negotiated the final version of this bill that is now headed to President Obama for his signature. The Republican-led Senate has worked hard this year to pass meaningful legislation that helps our economy and puts America in a better, more competitive position. The FAST Act is one more legislative achievement we can add to that list.”
Last month, Thune was named to the highway bill conference committee, which ensured South Dakota’s interests would be represented at the negotiating table.
FAST Act highlights:
- Increased highway investment levels: South Dakota is estimated to receive a $133 million increase in overall highway spending over the next five years. South Dakota’s apportioned highway funding will grow from $272 million in 2015 to an estimated $286 million in 2016 – and ultimately $312 million in 2020.
- Increased transit investment levels: Funding for transit in South Dakota will grow from $15.5 million in 2015 to an estimated $16.6 million in 2016, and approximately $17.8 million in 2020.
- Increased tribal transportation investment levels: The existing Tribal Transportation Program that addresses tribal road and bridge infrastructure needs will be funded at $465 million in 2016, an increase of $15 million from current levels, and will grow to $505 million in 2020.
- Covered Farm Vehicles: Protects states from losing federal funding for granting additional regulatory relief to specially designated farm vehicles and drivers.
- Agriculture hours of service (HOS) relief: Provides HOS relief for truck drivers transporting bees or livestock by making permanent the temporary rest break flexibility option.
- Construction HOS relief: Drivers transporting construction materials will have a larger radius they can operate in before additional paperwork requirements, including logging and hours of service rules, apply.
- Custom harvesters relief: Allows states to waive special hazmat licenses for custom harvesters operating diesel tanks (less than 1,000 gallons).
- Freight formula program: Creates a freight formula funding program in which South Dakota would receive over $8 million annually.
- Port metrics: Requires the Department of Transportation to issue yearly reports on port metrics allowing for more transparency and better planning to those that utilize our nation’s ports for import or export.
- Dedicated funding for states without passenger rail: Adds freight rail eligibility to passenger rail grant programs, requires a 25 percent rural set-aside, and guarantees to states like South Dakota, which have no passenger rail, no less than 1.3 percent of appropriated funds from the programs. The total amount will depend on appropriations; if the program is fully funded, it dedicates to South Dakota no less than $3 million per year.
- 24-7 sobriety: Rewards states for providing a 24-7 sobriety program, which started in South Dakota, by creating a new incentive grant under 23 USC 405 for states with a 24-7 sobriety program and by amending the penalty transfer section of 23 USC 164 to allow states to qualify for meeting the repeat intoxicated driver law with a 24-7 sobriety program.
- Testing of electronically-controlled pneumatic brakes: Requires a National Academies test on a new rail braking technology for unit trains carrying flammable liquids to ensure it would deliver the intended results and would not lead to network slowdowns.
For a list of FAST Act provisions that benefit South Dakota, click here, and for a summary of the Commerce Committee’s role in over half of the 1,300-page legislative measure, click here.