WASHINGTON, D.C. — Lawmakers in the Senate passed a proposal Thursday to provide a long-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund. Called the DRIVE Act, the bill included provisions long sought after by Utah transportation leaders and was advanced by Sen. Orrin Hatch. The bill passed by a vote of 65-34.
“In a state growing as quickly as Utah, with an expanding population and even-faster expanding business sector, transportation and infrastructure are crucial investments,” Hatch said. “Regrettably, the federal government has been unreliable at times in providing states the consistent, long-term funding the states need to fix our nation’s highways, which has caused serious transportation problems in our state. This bill will provide crucial aid state and local leaders leaders need to improve our roads and transit systems, making commutes safer and more efficient for Utah families.”
Click play above: Hatch discusses transportation issues in Utah and the proposed DRIVE Act.
Carlos Braceras, executive director of Utah’s Department of Transportation, hailed the bill as a victory for Utah.
“We have worked closely with Sen. Hatch and his staff to ensure that his approach and amendments to the Senate transportation bill take into account the most pressing needs facing the state transportation system,” Braceras said. “While there are many proposals and approaches to address transportation issues facing Utah and the rest of the country, we appreciate the senator’s continued focus to increase the flexibility of federal funds apportioned to state and local leaders and believe it will have the best long-term impact to improve the condition and safety of roads and bridges in our state and across the nation. I applaud his efforts to engage with us and to ensure that Utah’s transportation priorities are represented in this major national debate.”
Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, noted that a strong federal role in transportation combined with flexibility for local decision making is a major feature of Senator Hatch’s approach.
“Sen. Hatch, in his role as chairman of the Finance Committee, deserves our praise for his efforts to provide innovative solutions to the transportation problem our nation faces,” Beattie said. “Deterioration of our nation’s transportation system impedes economic performance by increasing transportation costs, slowing commerce and commuting and burdening an economy with future transportation investment needs. Our federal transportation program has served the nation well and, in particular, the Beehive State. Without Senator Hatch’s partnership, our state would have likely been unable to achieve the major transit and highway expansions of the last decade. I’m hopeful through his continued leadership Congress can pass a long-term transportation bill.”
Michael Allegra, president and CEO of the Utah Transit Authority, also praised the increased access granted to Utahns by the measure.
“Utah’s innovative transportation and transit systems are vital to our booming business sector and growing population,” Allegra said. “Whether it be light-rail, commuter rail or buses, we have made tremendous strides in safety and efficiency for our community. Senator Hatch’s work to ensure stable federal funding over a more reliable period of time will help us continue to lead, bringing great businesses and jobs into Utah and granting Utahns the best possible access to our state.”
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