Metro-East News

Davis bill would give more local control over federal transportation dollars

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, has introduced a bill into the U.S. House aimed at giving leaders in St. Clair and Madison counties, as well as local governments nationwide, more control over how federal transportation dollars are spent.

Called H.R. 1393, or the Innovation in Surface Transportation Act, it “will give our rural communities and smaller cities like Springfield, Bloomington-Normal, Champaign and Decatur in my district, a greater say in how federal transportation dollars are spent,” Davis said in a statement issued Tuesday.

“Too often important projects in these areas are overlooked and fail to receive their fair share of funding. This bill will also help our transportation dollars go further by encouraging public-private partnerships and creating more transparency.”

The bill, co-sponsored with U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nevada, directs states to set up an in-state, competitive grant program in which a panel compiled of representatives from state transportation departments, local governments, planning organizations and other transportation/economic stakeholders select projects to receive funding from already established federal transportation programs.

Davis’ measure aims to create more transparency by requiring states to post publicly the criteria or methodology used to select projects, the amount requested, the amount granted, and the source of non-federal funds.

Funding for America’s transportation infrastructure has quietly emerged as a hot topic in the Republican-controlled House and Senate over the last two months. Congress has approved a series of temporary funding measures since 2009, including an $11 billion spending plan that is set to expire May 31.

Meanwhile, the Highway Trust Fund is in danger of running out of money unless Congress approves an extension to the existing infrastructure bill. The fund, which pays for most big-ticket highway projects, is financed through the 18.4 cent-per-gallon federal gas tax, which has not increased since 1993, even as America’s automotive fleet has dramatically improved in fuel efficiency.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has turned up the heat on Davis on other GOP lawmakers for their support of a proposed federal budget that would raise Medicare costs for retirees.

“Congressman Davis may say that he wants to give transportation projects their ‘fair share,’ but his party’s budget priorities reveal a completely different attitude,” according to a statement issued by Matt Thornton, a DCCC spokesman.