WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senator Steve Daines today applauded the passage of a multi-year highway bill that provides Montanans much-needed certainty in infrastructure investments:
“The long-overdue passage of a multi-year highway bill is great news for Montana and a critical step forward in providing our state with the certainty needed to make long-term infrastructure investments,” Daines stated. “Our transportation infrastructure is a critical component of our state’s economy and given Montana’s short construction season, it’s imperative that communities and contractors alike have the certainty needed to move forward with badly-needed infrastructure improvement projects. This bill ends Congress’s irresponsible trend of short-term Band-Aids and temporary extensions and provides long-term support for our nation’s vast transportation network. I am proud to see this important legislation garner overwhelming bipartisan support and I urge the President to swiftly sign it into law.”
The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act is a five-year surface transportation reauthorization bill. Its passage marks the first time Congress has passed a long-term highway funding bill since 2009.
Nearly 90 percent of Montana’s highway program funding is supported by federal dollars. The FAST Act will provide an estimated $2.28 billion over the next five years to Montana. Montana had 425 existing infrastructure projects that were at risk without federal support.
Daines helped secure several critical provisions in the FAST Act, including:
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) Grant Flexibility – Provides states the option to qualify for impaired driving grants for 24/7 sobriety. The 24/7 Sobriety Program that began in 2011 after two troopers were killed by a drunk driver. Through this program over 5,000 Montana participants have tested twice a day, totaling almost 700,000 breath tests – 99.3% of these tests administered have been clean. For Montana, the 24/7 Sobriety Program has reduced alcohol related fatalities and is countering the culture of drinking and driving.
- Electronic Odometer Disclosure – Allows states to voluntarily proceed with their own odometer disclosure programs, as long as their processes provide equivalent security to the current paper and ink process.
- Wireless Roadside Inspection (WRI) System Report – Requires the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to report to Congress on the design and implementation of their WRI system. Montana and 39 other states already have state and private systems in place, specifically in Montana since 1998 the non-federal system saved motor carriers 340,000 hours of commercial driver time, more than 1.6 million gallons of fuel and more than 3,500 tons of emissions. This provision requires FMSCA to clarify how it is not a duplicative system and how they will safeguard another federal database of private driver and business data.
- Eastern Montana Amtrak Station Report – Requires Amtrak to evaluate options for establishing additional Amtrak stops that would have a positive financial impact to Amtrak, including a potential station in Culbertson, Montana. It also requires evaluation of options to enhance economic development and accessibility of Amtrak stations and their surrounding areas.
- Crop Insurance – Reverses $3 billion in cuts to the federal crop insurance program.
Montanans applauded Daines’ efforts to secure these provisions and pass a five-year bill:
Attorney General Tim Fox: “The 24/7 Sobriety Program is one of our most effective tools for combatting repeat DUI, and this important new language in the federal highway bill will bring state 24/7 programs like Montana’s to statutory parity with ignition interlock devices. This means, among other things, that we will have more access to funds for fighting impaired driving. This is victory for Montana and I’m grateful to Sen. Steve Daines for his help in our efforts to get this provision into the highway bill.”
Chief of the Montana Highway Patrol Colonel Tom Butler: “24/7 is a peer-reviewed accountability program that brings documented reductions in repeat DUI offenses. The program greatly enhances our effectiveness in tackling alcohol-related crimes, and this addition to the federal highway bill is another big step forward in expanding 24/7 to more Montana counties.”
Montana DOT Director Mike Tooley: “For the first time in a decade, Montana has dependable and long term federal funding to help build and maintain our vast transportation system. This is good for families, business, and safety. I know that Montana’s congressional delegation worked hard to make this happen, and they deserve our thanks.”
Montana Farm Bureau Director of National Affairs Nicole Rolf: “Crop insurance is a vital program for Montana’s farmers and ranchers. The Montana Farm Bureau thanks Senator Daines for his vote to restore unwarranted cuts to the crop insurance program and for being a strong supporter and advocate for Montana agriculture in the U.S. Senate.”
Bill Underriner of Underriner Motors of Billings: “Sen. Daines’ amendment removed an outdated impediment for a state to move from paper to electronic odometer titling. This amendment will help save consumers money and time at the dealership. Montana auto dealers commend Sen. Daines for his efforts.
Daines has long pressed for a multi-year highway bill that provides Montana and the country with the certainty needed to make long-term infrastructure investments. On July 15, 2015, Daines, a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, approved key components of a multi-year transportation bill.
On July 30, 2015, the U.S. Senate approved the DRIVE Act on a bipartisan vote of 65-34. After House passage of similar legislation, the Senate and House formed a conference committee to produce the bipartisan FAST Act.
Video of Daines’ statement is available for download here.