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Sight Lines: What Does the Transportation Bill Mean for You?

July 3, 2012
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On Friday, Congress passed a transportation bill that provides $105 billion for the nation’s surface transportation programs over two years and continues the current level of funding (accounting for inflation) through FY 2014.

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica called it a “responsible bill with real reforms that will boost employment in the particularly hard-hit construction industry, and ensure that hard-earned taxpayer dollars are more effectively spent in improving America’s infrastructure.”

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee and a sponsor of the bill, said the legislation will save or create about three million jobs and will boost the economy through road and bridge repairs; while Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the senior Republican sponsor of the bill, hailed it as conservative and fiscally responsible. “Our bill streamlines environmental review process for the long term, gives more authority and flexibility to the states to decide their own funding priorities, and eliminates or consolidates programs that are duplicative or do not further our national transportation goals,” he said.

MAPPS, which called the bill “a positive step” and advocated for its passage, noted that the legislation reauthorizes and fully funds the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), the federal funding source for transportation infrastructure projects. The bill was also applauded by Autodesk CEO Carl Bass, who issued a statement shortly after the bipartisan agreement was reached. “Our infrastructure is in dire need of repair, and this bill will allow us to transform our roadways, bridges, transit systems and other assets to meet the demands of our 21st Century economy,” he said. “Most importantly, the passing of the transportation bill provides a much-needed boost to our economy. Critical projects that can now commence will put countless Americans back to work. I commend Congress for recognizing the need to act on transportation-this investment in our future will pay tremendous dividends.”

In addition to preserving transportation funding and jobs, there is at least one other section of interest to surveying and mapping professionals. The bill amends Section 306 of U.S. Code Title 23 to promote the use of photogrammetric methods by commercial enterprise in mapping by changing the phrasing from “may” to “shall”: “(a) In General. - In carrying out the provisions of this title, the Secretary shall, wherever practicable, authorize the use of photogrammetric methods in mapping, and the utilization of commercial enterprise for such services.” Additionally, it mandates the development of an annual oversight and monitoring process to ensure the compliance of each state with the guidance in the code to use private-sector sources wherever possible for surveying and mapping services, and it requires the Secretary of Transportation to conduct a survey of all states within two years of the bill’s passage to determine what percentage of projects carried out under Section 306 of U.S. Code Title 23 use private-sector sources for surveying and mapping services.

How will the bill impact your firm? Please share your comments below.
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