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Begich Praises Bipartisan Transportation Investment Agreement

With both houses of Congress working out final details of a new transportation bill, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich today said the agreement includes balanced funding levels and key improvements for Alaska and is fully paid for.

“I’ve always said potholes are not partisan and the bipartisan work to complete this bill leads to a balanced agreement that will create jobs and move our economy forward,” Begich said.

“Congressman Young did a great job on the House side while Senator Murkowski and I worked to ensure Alaska priorities from the Senate bill were included,” he added.

The conference agreement is based on the Senate-passed bill, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, or MAP-21.  Both the House and the Senate today were working out final details of timing, but the bill is expected to be approved by this weekend.

The agreement invests $105 billion nationally in transportation projects and programs for 27 months, though September 2014. Among the key Alaska provisions:

Overall Alaska funding: The agreement includes $460 million in highway formula funding for Alaska in FY2013 and $464 million in FY2014 – in total $924 million for highways, roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects in Alaska. The amount is slightly lower than the totals from the Senate passed bill. When funding for the Alaska Railroad and other transit projects is included, the bill invests over $1 billion in Alaska’s transportation infrastructure over two years.

Alaska Railroad: The bill generates $31 million in formula funding for the Alaska Railroad, down slightly from current law but a significant improvement over earlier versions of the bill, which drastically reduced funding for the Alaska Railroad.

Tribal Transportation: The conference agreement keeps funding for this program stable – at least $46 million annually – and also restores the High Priority Program funding at $30 million per year.

Denali Commission: Sen. Begich’s amendment during Senate deliberations was included in the conference agreement.  It expands the Commission’s ability to accept funds from other federal agencies and the State of Alaska.  This will greatly help the Commission diversify its funding and make it less reliant on year-to-year Congressional appropriations.

Vanpooling: Another Begich amendment added to the bill allows vanpool providers to reinvest the fares they collect into purchasing more vehicles. This will enhance their ability to provide more vanpooling commuter services, such as to and from the Mat-Su Valley and Anchorage.

Ferry Funding: Nationally, the conference agreement authorizes $67 million per year for ferries and ferry terminals.  The formula places additional emphasis on route miles and, because of Alaska’s long ferry routes, is advantageous to the Alaska Marine Highway System.

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