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Detroit Free Press: What federal transportation bill will mean for Michigan

November 18, 2015
Opinion Editorial
In going about our regular routines, we depend daily on our roads, bridges and public transportation to get us where we need to go. Our local businesses also depend on them to grow, create good-paying jobs and remain competitive.

While the deteriorating shape of our roads and bridges has been a hotly debated issue in Lansing, the federal government also must do its part to ensure states like Michigan can continue forward with funding and reforms for important projects.

Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives took a significant step toward helping rebuild Michigan's and our nation's aging infrastructure by passing a six-year federal highway bill without raising taxes. After relying on short-term funding for far too long, the House was able to advance a long-term, bipartisan plan for the first time in a decade.

The Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act, which passed by an overwhelming 363-64 margin, is the byproduct of both parties coming together to address the people's priorities.

The legislation features a number of key reforms:

?It streamlines the environmental review and permitting process so we can remove unnecessary red tape and finish projects more rapidly.

?It returns more decision-making authority to state and local governments to help maximize our transportation dollars to best meet the needs of individual communities. Instead of Washington bureaucrats issuing top-down orders, those closest to the community should have greater flexibility and say in addressing their priorities.

?It reduces the maze of federal bureaucracies by consolidating and eliminating at least six offices within the Department of Transportation that have overlapping duties into one office, which will help expedite the project delivery process.

In addition to these and other reforms, the bill refocuses our national priorities on large-scale improvements that boost interstate commerce, which creates more opportunities for Michigan businesses to sell their products and create jobs.

This bipartisan legislation incentivizes innovation and encourages the use of new technological breakthroughs — such as vehicle-to-infrastructure technologies — to modernize our transportation system, improve safety and ease congestion.

A safe, efficient and cost-effective infrastructure system plays a pivotal role in moving people and products. It's time we get the job done to keep Michigan moving.

Tim Walberg represents Michigan's 7th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. This op-ed originally appeared in the November 17, 2015 edition of the Detroit Free Press.

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