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Legislative Updates

Congress passes 5-year highway bill

This week, Congress did something unheard of these days: It passed a major law, successfully negotiating and paying for a five-year, $305-billion surface transportation reauthorization bill. President Obama is expected to sign the Fix­ing Amer­ica’s Sur­face Trans­port­a­tion Act (H.R. 22).

The legislation increases highway spending by 15 percent and transit spending by 18 percent over its duration. It creates a separate budget for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor apart from the rest of the nationwide system. The legislation also makes $200 million available for commuter railroads to install positive train control technology to prevent collisions and derailments, which was reportedly influenced by the deadly May 2015 derailment of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia

The agreement puts an end to the series of short-term patches put in place by Congress since 2008, when the issue of the Highway Trust Fund became the source of political divisions. To fund the five-year measure, without raising the gas tax, Congress tapped a multitude of other sources, including the sale of oil from the nation’s emergency stockpile and money from a Federal Reserve surplus account.

Of particular note for letter carriers, the measure does not use the pay and benefits of federal/postal employees nor postal service cuts to pay for highway spending. During the last Congress, the GOP unsuccessfully sought to use the elimination of Saturday mail delivery to pay for the reauthorization.

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