Thursday, March 15, 2012
Senator Udall: Transportation Bill Good for America, New Mexico
On Wednesday March 14th, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) urged the House to act on legislation that passed the Senate overwhelmingly today to create jobs by revitalizing America’s thruways and bridges. The bill passed the chamber in strong bipartisan fashion by a vote of 74-22.
"There is no more certain way to create jobs than through the revitalization of America's roads, bridges and other vital infrastructure,” said Udall. “The bipartisan surface transportation bill the Senate advanced today will provide much needed certainty for state and local governments to plan ahead and further stabilize our economy."
The legislation includes $12 million for the next two years for Udall’s Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety Research initiative. This initiative was introduced with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) last March as stand-alone bill known as the “Research of Alcohol Detection Systems for Stopping Alcohol-related Fatalities Everywhere Act,” or “ROADS SAFE Act.”
“Too many innocent lives have been taken at the hands of drunk drivers,” Udall said. “With the advancement of technology in this day and age, we have the power to stop drunk driving before it starts by making sure would-be drivers can’t start a car if they are over the legal limit.”
The focus of the research that will be funded is to develop a passive alcohol detection system for vehicles to prevent any individual who is over the legal limit from being able to operate the vehicle. It has the backing of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the Century Council, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) and many others.
Udall also reported on several other provisions he was responsible for including in the measure:
- A Rural Safety amendment, to ensure that vehicle crash rates are considered when states prioritize federal safety funding. Currently, in many cases, only the number of crashes is considered, which puts rural areas with lower total numbers of vehicles at a disadvantage.
- An amendment to give states the flexibility to spend funding on local and county roads within ten miles of the international border when 50 percent or more of the traffic is for federal purposes. This amendment addresses concerns expressed by Luna and Hidalgo counties regarding the increase in maintenance requirements on local roads due to the rise of border patrol activity in the area.
- An amendment to allow rural towns to invest their federal dollars to improve roads adjacent to their main streets. This provision gives small towns more flexibility to maintain their main street character while addressing congestion and accessibility concerns. Currently, small towns are faced with the choice of building expensive bypasses that direct traffic around the city, hampering main street and downtown businesses, or widening the main street itself, which also often has detrimental impacts on downtown areas.
- An amendment to ensure that non-motorized users of the transportation system (bicyclists and pedestrians) have a voice at the table during the development of safety, statewide and metropolitan area transportation improvement plans.
- Udall also reported improvements to the Tribal Transportation Formula, to avoid a 20 percent cut in funding to the Navajo Nation, which was included in an earlier version of the legislation. Instead, the Navajo Nation’s funding will remain stable and the Pueblos in New Mexico will receive a significant boost in funding.