HOUSE PASSES BROWNLEY PRIORITIES IN SIX-YEAR SURFACE TRANSPORTATION BILL
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House passed a six-year surface transportation bill, which included a number of priorities and amendments championed by Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village), which will invest in our highways and transit systems, creating jobs and growing Ventura County’s economy.
“Growing Ventura County’s economy and ensuring that our highways and transit systems are safe and efficient are among my top priorities in Congress,” said Brownley. “I am pleased that the House-passed surface transportation bill contains many of our community’s priorities, including funding to improve safety at highway-railway crossings, a new freight and goods-movement program to ensure our ports and job creators are able to efficiently move goods. I asked to serve on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee because I wanted to be part of a team that gets things done.”
The six-year authorization bill will provide California with more than $22.7 billion in highway funds and more than $6.7 billion for transit systems through the formula funding programs. California is also expected to do well under the competitive grant programs, like the new freight program championed by Brownley and the Port of Hueneme, and the restoration of the bus discretionary program sought by Brownley and Ventura County’s transit agencies. Brownley also fought hard to include additional funds for the railway-highway grade crossing program in the bill, securing an increase in funds, which will provide California with nearly $100 million for railway-highway grade crossing safety improvements.
The six-year surface transportation bill that passed the House also includes several amendments, which were spearheaded by Brownley:
- In response to the three separate grade crossing accidents in Ventura County since January, Brownley included language ensuring that railway-highway grade crossings are explicitly eligible under the Surface Transportation Program (STP), funds that flow directly to local governments for local priorities. The Brownley language – adopted in the Committee mark-up – will ensure that state and local governments can use STP funds for railway crossing safety upgrades, including better signals and signage, and where necessary construct a grade separation.
- The bill creates a new competitive freight program for goods movement projects, which will help with the safe and efficient flow of commerce along critical freight corridors, helping businesses to create efficiencies and jobs in our community. Brownley spearheaded an amendment, adopted in Committee that permits states to add ports, like the Port of Hueneme, to the National Multimodal Freight Network.
- Brownley also spearheaded a provision to allow VA doctors to complete medical exams for veterans who apply for a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), which will cut bureaucratic red tape and make it easier for veterans to get jobs and return to work as they transition back to civilian life.
Last month at the full committee markup, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved these key provisions, which were led by Brownley. Now that the House has approved the Brownley provisions, the bill heads to a joint House-Senate conference committee. The conference committee is expected to also incorporate the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015 (H.R. 749), legislation that passed the House in March. That bill includes a Brownley-led amendment that would require each state to develop a grade crossing action plan. These state action plans would be required to identify specific solutions for improving safety at rail-highway crossings, including grade crossing closures or grade separations. Furthermore, the Brownley amendment would direct states to focus safety resources on crossings that have experienced recent accidents or multiple accidents, or those crossings that are at high risk for accidents.
Julia Brownley represents California’s 26th Congressional District, which includes most of Ventura County, and Westlake Village in Los Angeles County. She serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and as the Ranking Member on the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health.