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Senate Passes Bipartisan Transportation Funding Legislation

Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate voted to pass bipartisan legislation to fund highway and transportation projects in Hawai‘i and across the country for five years, making it the longest highway funding bill in more than a decade. If signed into law this bill would increase funding in Hawai‘i by $83 million next year and $241 million by 2020. U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), a member of the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, worked to include key provisions to support transit-oriented development and promote safer streets and communities.

“For years states and counties have been asking Congress to provide predictable infrastructure funding to support responsible planning for long-term investments in our roads, bridges, buses and bike paths,” 
said Senator Schatz. “This five-year highway bill will provide hundreds of millions of dollars to improve Hawai‘i’s transportation infrastructure across the state.” 

Additionally, this bill makes a number of important investments and improvements to increase safety on roads and in our communities.  Funding for these programs are what Hawai‘i uses to implement its statewide highway safety plan.  That includes funding for programs that promote child passenger protection, encourage seat belt usage and reduce incidence of drinking and driving.  These types of programs in conjunction with safety improvements in cars and trucks have led to a nearly twenty-four percent reduction in traffic fatalities nationwide over the last ten years.  There is more to do however, particularly with respect to pedestrian fatalities which has not decreased in the last decade and which disproportionate impacts older adults.

Other new safety provisions prohibit renting out cars under recall and tripling of civil fines the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is allowed to assess auto manufacturers for safety violations which have been far too common in recent years.   

The expansive transportation bill passed today includes provisions introduced by Senator Schatz.  The measures championed by Senator Schatz will:

  • Support investment in transit-oriented development. Consistent with S. 880, legislation introduced by Senator Schatz earlier this year, the provision would enable cities like Honolulu to utilize the U.S. DOT Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program.  Access to TIFIA financing provides another tool for cities to develop better walkable, bikeable communities near transit stations.
  • Promote safer streets and communities. Senator Schatz worked with Senator Heller (R-Nev.), AARP, Smart Growth America and many others on a bipartisan provision to encourage states and counties to keep pedestrians of all ages and abilities in mind when designing communities.  Hawai‘i has long embraced a “Complete Streets” planning philosophy exemplified by the Lihu?e Town Core Mobility and Revitalization Project for which Kauai secured $13 million in federal funding earlier this year.  The provision included in the transportation authorization seeks to shine a light on the benefits of this kind of thoughtful planning and the safety and quality of life impacts it can have in all communities.   
  • Strengthen local and national tourism. Key provisions backed by Senator Schatz will empower local travel and tourism leaders and create a National Advisory Committee to develop long-term transportation plans with tourism priorities on local and national levels.