Transportation legislation also means more federal gas tax dollars returning to Tennessee
Posted on May 17, 2005
WASHINGTON – The United States Senate today approved the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFE-TEA) of 2005 by a vote of 89 - 11. The Senate-approved bill includes a provision introduced by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) that adds $150 million over five years for roads maintenance in national parks. It also raises Tennessee’s share of federal gas tax dollars paid back to the state from 90.5 percent to 92 percent. “I am delighted that the transportation bill includes additional funding for roads in our national parks,” said Alexander. “The biggest part of the backlog in our national parks is the cost of maintaining park roads, which accounts for more than 60 percent of the national total and is close to $110 million of the $180 million backlog in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This additional funding will help fulfill President Bush’s commitment to eliminate nearly $5 billion of the maintenance backlog in our national parks.” Alexander’s proposal, which was adopted as part of the highway bill, increases road funding for national parks from $165 million in FY 2004 to $320 million in FY 2005 and to $330 million each year in FY 2006-2009. Alexander was joined by Sens. Ted Stevens (R-AK), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Richard Burr (R-NC), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Thad Cochran (R-MS) and John Warner (R-VA) in offering the amendment. The bill also increases Tennessee’s share of federal gas tax dollars paid back to the state from 90.5 percent to 92 percent. Alexander co-sponsored the Highway Funding Equity Act of 2005 with Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) to increase the amount of money that “donor” states receive from federal gas taxes. "Over the past five years, Tennessee taxpayers paid more than $3.5 billion into the highway trust fund and only received $3.3 billion, losing close to $200 million to other states. This bill ensures that Tennesseans will be getting back more of what they’re paying for instead of seeing their federal gas tax dollars go elsewhere." The Senate transportation bill provides $295 billion over five years to build better roads and highways across the country, as well as funding transit, safety and planning efforts. The legislation will mean an average of more than $800 million each year for five years for Tennessee, which is an increase of more than $150 million each year over what Tennessee received under the TEA-21 highway legislation. Transit funding will increase 66 percent over previous TEA-21 levels from $38 million each year currently for Tennessee to more than $50 million per year. The transportation bill will now go to a conference committee.