TULSA, Okla. – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today held a press conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma to announce provisions of the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act (S. 1647) that will directly benefit the state and to announce growing Oklahoma support for the legislation.
Inhofe, along with EPW Ranking Member Barbara Boxer (D-Cali.) and Sens. David Vitter (R-La.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.), introduced on Tuesday the DRIVE Act, a six-year surface transportation reauthorization bill.
The following provisions in the DRIVE Act will directly benefit the state of Oklahoma:
Apportionment: Under the DRIVE Act, Oklahoma will receive roughly $657 million the first year the legislation is enacted, and an average increase of 3 percent each additional year over the life of the bill. In 2005, Senator Inhofe authored a highway reauthorization bill that ensured Oklahoma was no longer a donor state to the Highway Trust Fund. The DRIVE Act continues to guarantee that Oklahoma receives its gasoline taxes for Oklahoma roads and bridges.
Bridges: Oklahoma state and local governments will have more allocated funding for bridges both on and off the National Highway System, so Oklahoma can continue to address the many bridges across the state that are in need of repair or replacement. Furthermore, for bridges that have a higher level of risk, work can be done during the crucial summer construction season even if certain non-endangered bird species are present on the bridge.
National Freight Program: Establishes a freight program, which provides funds to improve goods movement, reducing costs and improving performance for businesses and individuals. Under this program, Oklahoma will receive $31 million in the first year after the legislation is enacted that will be dedicated to improving freight corridors and associated assets allowing for local businesses and farmers to transport products and materials more efficiently, cutting down costs for them and their consumers.
Assistance for major projects program (AMPP): Through this new program, Oklahoma will be able to compete for funding to address major projects of high importance to a community, a region, or the country. This will provide much needed funding for projects that are too big to get off the ground due to constraints on traditional funding. The program has a rural set-aside and equitable geographic distribution of funds.
Natural Gas provisions: Provides for the designation of natural gas fueling corridors to identify the needs and most vital locations for such fueling infrastructure. Oklahoma will be able to nominate facilities to be included in the corridors to be chosen by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. In addition, natural gas vehicles can be included as an authorized vehicle in HOV lanes if a state chooses to limit HOV lanes to designated vehicles. Furthermore, the bill includes a limited truck weight exemption for natural gas commercial vehicles to put them on an even competitive level with trucks that have lighter diesel engines.
Tribal transportation program: Grows the program by $10 million each year, starting at $460 million in year one. Decreases program management and oversight and project-related administrative expenses related to the tribal transportation program from 6% to 5% so more money can be used on roads and bridges. Increases the set-aside for high-priority tribal bridges from 2 percent to 3 percent. Authorizes a General Fund appropriation for a major project grant program for transportation projects on facilities owned by federal land management agencies or tribes.
Environmental streamlining: Builds on the streamlining provisions Senator Inhofe helped negotiate in the last highway reauthorization bill, MAP-21. Environmental streamlining will allow for the review, permitting, and approval processes to be conducted more efficiently, saving Oklahoma time and money when undertaking projects.
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The Oklahoma endorsements of the DRIVE Act are as follows:
“In Norman, we’ve seen the benefits that come from a long term highway and transportation re-authorization bill. The railroad underpass east of the intersection of Robinson and Flood Streets is a direct result of such legislation and we applaud and support Sen. Inhofe’s efforts to again bring forward a long term highway bill. Prior to having the underpass, emergency responders often faced the possibility of being stopped by a slow moving train while rushing to and from Norman Regional Hospital less than a mile away. This is no longer a concern as traffic moves smoothly under the railway, alleviating congestion and easing the concerns of the emergency workers who respond when time is of the essence. In addition, Norman has benefitted greatly from safety enhancements and congestion mitigation on Interstate 35 and State Highway 9. Traffic delays have been reduced significantly and fewer citizens have been injured in traffic collisions.” – Steve Lewis, city manager for the City of Norman
“Our transportation system is integral to growth and development of counties everywhere. I commend Senator Inhofe for his efforts on this highway bill as it will enhance the foundation of infrastructure in Tulsa County.” – John Smaligo, Jr., chairman of the Tulsa County Board of Commissioners.
“Long term and sustainable funding for the federal Highway Bill is imperative for the continued economic success of the City of Owasso, the Tulsa region, and all of Oklahoma. Completing the widening of U.S. 169 and completing 46th Street North to the Port of Catoosa will address significant safety concerns of deficient road and bridge infrastructure, and ensure positive economic returns in all areas of industry and commerce for the greater Owasso area.” – Warren Lehr, city manager for the City of Owasso
“Road builders across Oklahoma are ready to roll up their sleeves and get back to work building our infrastructure. From the recent ramp closures on the crumbling I-44 Belle Isle Bridge in Oklahoma City to the rehabilitation of I-244 in Tulsa, our infrastructure is in perilous condition. Recently, the weather in Oklahoma has exposed an even greater need for a long-term funding solution for our nation's roads and bridges. With this new highway bill, we will be able to better plan for Oklahoma’s future, resulting in an infrastructure system that can safely network our nation. We commend and congratulate Sen. Inhofe for his tireless drive to forge a sustainable solution. His actions will not only build Oklahoma but will spur the economy and, most importantly, keep our families safe while traveling. Thank you, Sen. Inhofe, for making Oklahoma's roads and bridges a top priority.” – Bobby Stem, executive director of the Association of Oklahoma General Contractors
“Our nation’s transportation infrastructure is critical to our economic health and the reauthorization of the highway bill could not be more important. It was vital to an Oklahoma City project, the reconstruction of I-40 in Central Oklahoma City, that replaced a damaged, obsolete bridge with a safe freeway with a longer lifespan. Stable funding will allow communities across the nation to see these same improvements so that businesses can transport goods and travelers can move safely to their destinations.” – Roy Williams, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
“I am pleased to hear Senator Inhofe is moving forward with the introduction of a long-term highway bill. Transportation investment greatly benefits all Oklahomans,” he said. “We applaud Senator Inhofe’s leadership to recognize the importance of this investment. The bill will help address the critical needs of our highways and other infrastructure, while providing safer roads, well-paying jobs, and supporting Oklahoma’s economy.” – Jim Duit, president of Duit Construction Company, Inc. in Edmond, Oklahoma
“The new Highway Trust Bill will help our Nation return to one of the basics of our highway system—moving freight. Upon completion of the interstate highway system authorized under the 1956 Highway Trust Bill, our country began emphasizing ancillary transportation items to include recreation with the development of such things as bicycle paths. It now, however, is critically important for us to move back to developing highway infrastructure to insure that we can move freight in a timely, efficient manner. This is critically important to inland, international seaports like our Tulsa Port of Catoosa that offers year round muti-modal freight services through truck, rail, and barge for an ever growing cargo volume—currently over 2 million tons per year. Since barges cannot go door to door, we must have adequate rail and roadways to deliver and/or receive products to and from barges. This is vitally important to the 70 industrial clients located here at the Port employing over 4,000 people. Our thanks to Senator Inhofe for leading our Nation back to the basics of furthering the development and maintenance of our roadway system in his capacity as Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee.” – Bob Portiss, port director of the Tulsa Port of Catoosa
“We must have a long-term highway reauthorization bill because the nation’s highway and infrastructure system is the foundation of commerce, not just for the strength of our business but more importantly for our customers’ livelihoods. And in no uncertain terms, the number one concern we hear from our customers -- both professional truck drivers and traveling families -- is for safety on our country’s roadways.” – Tom Love, founder and executive chairman of Love’s Travel Stops
“Senator Inhofe has been a tireless champion of the need for and importance of investment in our nation’s infrastructure. The multi-year surface transportation re-authorization bill is critically important to providing stability and predictability in transportation funding and builds on the MAP-21 reforms with streamlining and flexibility features that will help to accelerate project delivery. We are encouraged that the action of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will spur attention on the too often delayed but most timely issue of transportation funding. Senator’s Inhofe leadership in this effort is to be commended.” – Rich Brierre, executive director of INCOG
“Surface transportation systems are vitally important to safety and prosperity not only in Oklahoma but across our Nation. The Highway Bill further enables the Southern Plains Transportation Center, based at the University of Oklahoma, to continue to develop new technologies and educate the workforce. Through the Center, OU, OSU and Langston University as well as other institutions serve the surrounding five-state region. Transportation professionals at state Departments of Transportation and in private businesses employ resulting best practices to design, develop and maintain our roads and bridges.” – Dr. Tom Landers, dean of University of Oklahoma’s College of Engineering Department
“OGE Energy counts safety in the work place and at home as one of its primary values. We’re pleased that the 2015 Highway Reauthorization Bill emphasizes safety by including funding for grade separation that could remediate dangerous rail crossings, something we face daily in our workplaces. We thank Chairman Inhofe for his vision in including this safety component in his bill, and encourage our entire delegation to support the legislation when it reaches their respective chambers.” – Randy Swanson, director of public affairs for OGE Energy Corp
“Enovation Controls applauds Senator Inhofe’s leadership to promote the use of cleaner, less expensive natural gas as a transportation fuel. This legislation is good for Oklahoma’s jobs and industry, as well as the environment and the nation as more natural gas powered commercial vehicles operate on our highways. We look forward to supporting this legislation and working with Senator Inhofe to ensure its passage.” – Patrick W. Cavanagh, president and chief executive officer of Enovation Controls
“A good, reliable infrastructure is vitally important to Oklahoma agriculture. We need safe and efficient roads and bridges to transport our valuable commodities to market. We applaud Sen. Inhofe for recognizing this need and for his continuing support of agriculture.” – Tom Buchanan, president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau
“A long-term highway bill is great news for the energy industry in Oklahoma and across the nation. In order to access and move our product to all possible markets, we need reliable and up-to-date infrastructure. We support Senator Inhofe’s efforts in focusing on a freight program that can be used to identify and fund projects to help move energy from the ground to other points along the production line, and ultimately to consumers around the world.” – Harold Hamm, chairman and CEO Continental Resources
"A long term highway funding bill that upgrades and strengthens our nation's infrastructure and eliminates red tape is critical to a vibrant U.S. economy. American companies like Devon depend on reliable infrastructure to support jobs and the economy across our country." – John Richels, president and CEO of Devon Energy
“People forget that one of the main reasons Eisenhower set out to build the interstate system was for national security purposes. In order to have a well-supplied, trained, and responsive military, this nation needs a reliable and durable highway system. This is especially important for Oklahoma’s six military installations. From McAlester Army Ammunition Plant producing all general purpose bombs for our Navy and Air Force and Tinker Air Force Base that is home to the Air Force’s largest Air Logistics Complex, to the Army’s Fires Center of Excellence at Fort Sill and the critical training accomplished at Vance Air Force Base, Altus Air Force Base, and Camp Gruber Joint Maneuver Training Center, this long-term transportation bill and its focus on federal priorities is critical to our national security. Senator Inhofe’s leadership on transportation and national security is vital to not just to Oklahoma and Oklahomans but our nation all a whole.” – Randy Young, director of Military Aviation and Aerospace for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
“We have grown very stagnant during the last several years as our business has faced nothing but continuing resolutions to depend on to keep our employees working in the highway industry across Oklahoma and Arkansas. Plans to expand our business in Oklahoma City with new facilities are still on hold today which means our expansion dollars will not be spent until we have assurance that the revenue stream for funding will become consistent over several years at a time rather than six months at a time. All employees working in the highway industry rely heavily on overtime dollars and during a stable and consistent program properly funded we will average 50 to 60 hour work weeks, which means about a 20 percent increase over base pay rates. Now that there is the DRIVE Act, we urge for passage of this legislation that can mean more to not only Oklahoma but all of America. I appreciate that Senator Jim Inhofe and his colleagues are listening to those in the industry, and I hope more in Congress will believe the fact that a stable-funded infrastructure program across the country will immediately release the trigger for growth that today still sits stagnant. I urge Congress to pass this six-year surface transportation reauthorization bill, and let’s rebuild our most valuable asset that any of us living in America have. It’s the right thing to do.” – Mike Webb, president of Manhattan Road and Bridge