WASHINGTON, D.C. — With critical funds to repair Ohio roads and bridges set to expire on June 30, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) applauded passage of the bipartisan highway bill which would jump start critical infrastructure projects and keep Ohioans working. The bill would fund transportation projects through FY 2014 at current levels, supporting more than 50,050 Ohio jobs per year. Brown’s tour bus safety and “Buy America” legislation were included in the jobs bill passed today. Today’s jobs bill is the first transportation bill passed since 2005.

“Road construction projects and bridge repairs put Ohioans to work while improving safety for drivers and increasing efficiency for Ohio’s businesses,” Brown said. “Previous short-term extensions and constant delays have created uncertainty for local governments and businesses across our state that prevent hiring and additional investments.”

With nearly 2,800 Ohio bridges deemed “structurally deficient,” major repairs and renovations are needed throughout Ohio. The current law expired on September 30, 2009  and in March 2012, the Senate passed the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act—known as the highway bill—by a vote of 74-22. Although nine short-term extensions have been passed, a long-term bill was not voted on by the U.S. House of Representatives until today.

Brown has joined workers and small business owners around the state to discuss why a long-term bill is important for businesses and local governments to plan large-scale projects and how the delay of critical highway construction projects would affect business and continued development of Ohio’s neighborhoods.

Specifically, the Senate-passed highway bill:

  • Consolidates federal programs to provide greater efficiency and flexibility to states;
  • Expands financing programs, like the Transportation Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act (TIFIA), that use federal funding to leverage private investments in transportation; and
  • Establishes performance measurements that emphasize an outcome-based approach to improve results and accountability.

Brown successfully passed several pieces of legislation by including them as amendments to the jobs bill:

Tour Bus Safety Legislation First Authored After the Bluffton University Crash

Passed as part of the transportation jobs bill, Brown’s Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act is aimed at reducing the number of tour bus crashes and related fatalities and injuries. The legislation would increase and expand safety requirements for motorcoach drivers and companies. Brown first introduced the legislation—which was passed unanimously by a key Senate panel last year—following a 2007 crash of a tour bus carrying 33 Bluffton University baseball players that claimed seven lives.

Closing a “Buy America” Loophole to Prevent Instances of Chinese Steel Infiltrating American Infrastructure – Like the New Bay Bridge Construction

Brown offered an amendment to the transportation jobs bill that would strengthen “Buy America” provisions and support Ohio-made steel. The legislation benefits several Ohio steel companies, including ArcelorMittal and Cliffs Natural Resources in Cleveland; Nucor, located in Marion; and AK Steel in Middletown.

The effectiveness of “Buy America” preferences has been compromised by various loopholes to avoid sourcing goods and materials domestically. One of the most egregious examples is “segmentation,” whereby a project is split into various contracts and federal aid is not used on those where the contractor intends to use foreign iron, steel, and manufactured goods – bypassing American workers and evading the law. This loophole allowed Chinese-made steel to be used in the new Oakland, California Bay Bridge. Closing this loophole helps to ensure that Buy America is effectively enforced.