WASHINGTON, D.C. – With a deadline to pass critical highway funding fast approaching, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today outlined a long-term transportation bill that was unveiled Tuesday, including a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. Brown – ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – is one of 13 Senators on the House-Senate Conference Committee that has been negotiating the bill – the first long-term transportation measure since 2005.
“This bill would make more funds available to improve Ohio’s highways, repair its structurally deficient bridges, and bolster our transit systems. It would also create a new program to fund job-creating projects like the Brent Spence Bridge between Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky," Brown said. "To keep America on top of the global economy, Congress must pass a long-term bill that invests in world-class infrastructure.”
Increased Funding for Ohio Roads, Bridge, and Transit
Under the bill, Ohio’s yearly share of federal funding for highway projects would increase by $200 million by 2020 and by $20 million for transit projects. Under current law, Ohio receives nearly $1.3 billion of federal highway aid each year. This bill would increase Ohio’s annual federal award to nearly $1.5 billion by Fiscal Year 2020. Funding for Ohio transit would increase by $20 million annually, to $195 million in 2020.
The bill, the first long-term extension since 2005, would ensure funding for roads, bridges, and mass transit projects for five years. Brown highlighted the bill’s provisions that would boost funding levels for major job-creating infrastructure projects like replacement of Ohio’s Brent Spence Bridge, as well as increase funding for the state’s highway and transit programs. Current transportation funding is set to expire Dec. 4. The legislation would increase overall highway spending by 15 percent compared to current law and annual transit spending would grow 18 percent.
Ohio has the nation’s fourth largest interstate system with 6,700 lane miles, and an estimated 109,000 Ohioans work in highway construction in the state. Out of 26,986 bridges in Ohio, 2,080 are structurally-deficient and 4,452 are functionally obsolete -- totaling 6,532 bridges in need of repairs.
Click here to view the annual funding allocations for Ohio's highway programs under existing law and the new five-year transportation bill, which would provide funding for Fiscal Years 2016 through 2020.
Creation of New Program to Fund Major Projects Like Brent-Spence Bridge
Brown successfully fought to include a provision that would create a new competitive grant program to fund major infrastructure projects, like the replacement of the Brent Spence. The Brent Spence project would be eligible to apply for funds from an $800 million per year pot of funding, which would grow to $1 billion annually in Fiscal Year 2020. The program is intended for large projects that, when completed, will reduce the impact of congestion, generate national and regional economic benefits, and facilitate the efficient movement of freight. Brown also championed a new competitive bus program in which Ohio transit agencies can compete for up to $340 million that will be distributed annually.
Export-Import Bank Renewal
Brown also helped to lead the effort to renew the Export-Import Bank for five more years, which is critical to helping Ohio companies create jobs and sell their products around the world. Since 2007, the Export-Import Bank has provided direct financial assistance to more than 350 Ohio businesses – including 226 small businesses – to support $3 billion of exports. The bank’s charter expired at the end of June.
“The Export-Import Bank is a vital tool that helps businesses in Ohio and across our country grow, create jobs, and compete in the global economy,” Brown said. “Renewing the Ex-Im Bank will ensure that American businesses aren’t put at a disadvantage to our foreign competitors.”
Buy America Provisions
As a long-time supporter of Buy America, Brown pushed to include a provision that would increase the amount of American-made steel and other components that will go into buses and subway cars. The bill requires transit rolling stock (buses and rail cars) to include 70 percent domestic content, such as steel, by 2020, up from 60 percent under current law. Brown also proposed a provision in the bill to incentivize the use of American-made steel in foreign-made components.
William Murdock, executive director of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, joined Brown in emphasizing how a long-term investment in America’s roads, bridges, and transit systems is vital to Ohio's economy.
“A five-year federal transportation bill will make a significant difference to Ohio and our local governments as we seek to build vibrant communities with strong economies and multi-modal transportation options for our people and businesses,” Murdock said. “It is critical to regions and states to have adequate federal resources and long-term funding certainty so that we can plan and meet the transportation needs of today and into the future.”
The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland released a new study last week showing how improving public transportation could strengthen Northeast Ohio’s economy by connecting more workers, particularly low-income workers, to job opportunities. The report underscored the priorities that Brown has fought for during the negotiations on the long-term transportation bill.