Washington, D.C. – Today, the House passed the surface transportation conference agreement, which included a number of priorities and amendments championed by Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village), which will invest in our highway, transit, and rail systems, creating jobs and growing Ventura County’s economy.
“As a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, 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 final conference agreement contains many Ventura County priorities I have been advocating for, including funding to improve safety at highway-railway crossings, and a new freight and goods-movement program that is essential to making the infrastructure investments necessary to keep our economy strong.”
The five-year authorization bill will provide California with more than $19.4 billion in highway funds and more than $6.8 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 $82 million exclusively for railway-highway grade crossing safety improvements. These projects are also eligible under the highway safety and freight programs.
The five-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 freight program – with both formula and discretionary funds — 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.
- The Conference committee included Brownley’s amendment to the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015 (H.R. 749), legislation that passed the House in March. The amendment 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.