U.S. SENATE —U.S. Senator Steve Daines today secured important investments in Montana air, rail and surface transportation.
The U.S. Senate today overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan FY2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations Act to fund the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and related agencies in fiscal year 2017.
“Infrastructure is an important part of our everyday lives, from our roads to the skies to our railways,” Daines stated. “I’m proud to secure investments to increase safety and create more good-paying jobs.”
Daines’ moved forward the following provisions to strengthen Montana’s transportation network:
- Fully funds the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).
- This matches the legislation that Daines’ authored and was unanimously approved by the U.S. Senate on March 3, 2016.
- Directs $2 million to short line safety institute to conduct hazmat training – specifically for short line railroads transporting energy products.
Improving Air Safety:
- Ensures West Yellowstone Airport is treated like other airports surrounded by federal lands, raising their federal share of projects.
- Funds Essential Air Service (EAS) program at $150 million ensuring that small, rural communities which would otherwise go without air service have access to the national air transportation system, especially in eastern Montana.
- Regular scheduled air service plays an important role in rural commerce.
- Communities that have seasonal air service should have the flexibility to continue operations to meet local needs, should weather and airport accessibility permit.
- Enhances safety for general aviation operations in and near military operations areas, such as Baker Municipal Airport, recommending that the FAA utilize existing budget authorities to promptly provide radar or NextGen capability in such areas.
- Supports all FAA contract towers being fully funded at $159 million – the contract tower program funds 253 towers including three in Montana. Towers in this program are responsible for 28 percent of air traffic and utilize only 14 percent of total funding. It is critical to continue this cost efficient program that provides essential safety services.
- Some airports operate regularly scheduled commercial services outside of current control tower hours of service.
- Daines secured language that ensures that the FAA is accountable and responsive to Montana’s air traffic control needs.
- Airport Improvement Grants funded at $3.35 billion.
- Last week, Daines announced over $4.6 million in critical funding for ten Montana airports.
- Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) implementation is critical for the United State to remain the global leader is safe and efficient air traffic control (ATC).
- Daines secured language to establish performance objectives and to hold the Chief NextGen Officer accountable to those objectives is critical in timely implementation.
- Fully funds Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) research at $17.635 million and provides $10 million of this amount specifically for the Center of Excellence which will help fund research at Montana State University.
- Funds the Small Community Air Service Development Grant Program at $10 million to help expand rural and small community air service.
- This program has successfully and sustainably expanded service at many of Montana’s airports:
- Butte, Kalispell, Bozeman, Missoula, West Yellowstone, Helena and Great Falls
- Most recently, bringing America Airlines service from Bozeman to Dallas
- Fully funds Aircraft Certification Service at $226.7 million to address existing backlogs for aviation manufacturers and help foster job growth, specifically protecting Boeing jobs in Helena.
- Secured language recommending the FAA assist Federal Land Managers, including but not limited to the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service in charting airstrips located on federal that are and may be useful for administrative, recreational and emergency purposes.
Improving Rail Safety:
- Recognizes the importance of Amtrak’s Empire Builder to the Bakken region and eastern Montana and directs the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Amtrak to reevaluate previous Empire Builder feasibility studies that prove financial benefit by adding an additional rail stop in Culbertson.
- Funds Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement (CRISI) grants at $50 million – providing funds for Montana’s freight and passenger rail operations to make safety improvements.
- Unobligated funds made available to maintain a state-of-good-repair should be made available to states outside of the Northeastern Corridor, such as the Great Northern Corridor.
Keeping Roads Safe:
- Removed regulatory burdens on how drivers conduct everyday business by delaying the restart rule for truckers.
Emphasis on Youth Homelessness:
- The bill includes provisions to expand and improve HUD delivery of housing and services for homeless youth.
Prioritizing Indian Country:
- Provides $7 million to Tribes for Veterans Assistance Supportive Housing assistance vouchers.
- Prioritizes funds to be allocated to Tribes with the most severe housing needs.
- Requires HUD to report to Congress measures to reduce over $2 billion in poorly spent funds highlighted by the agency’s own watchdog last year.