House Passes Highway Bill, Agreement Includes Dedicated Funding for Off-system Bridge Program

Jun 29, 2012 Issues: Agriculture, Allegheny National Forest

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson today voted to support H.R. 4348, a bipartisan House-Senate Highway Bill agreement that reauthorizes federal highway and transportation programs through the end of fiscal year 2014.  Thompson on June 14th initiated a bipartisan letter to the House-Senate Highway Bill Conference Committee urging dedicated funding levels for bridges not on federal-aid highways, otherwise known as “off-system bridges,” which was included in the final agreement.  H.R. 4348 passed the U.S. House by a vote of 373-52.  

“This reauthorization offers critical resources for our states and localities to improve road safety and boost economic activity,” said Thompson. “Adequate funding levels for the Off-system Bridge Program will ensure that communities not on federal-aid highways, including many rural communities in the 5th District, are able to undertake bridge safety improvements without undue financial burden.”

H.R. 4348 also includes reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools program, which funds county expenses for public schools, road improvement projects, forest restoration and improvement projects in and around national forests. This funding is critical for many forest communities around the country who have seen significant losses in county revenue as a direct result of reduced timber harvesting on national forests.

Additionally the Payment-In-Lieu-of-Taxes program, or PILT, was reauthorized for one year. Similar to Secure Rural Schools, this nationwide program is vital to rural communities as it provides federal payments to local governments to help offset losses in property taxes due to non-taxable federal land within national forest boundaries.

“Counties in or close to national forests, such as those in and around the Allegheny National Forest, have been hit by hard economic times and rely on timber harvesting as a major economic engine for the region,” Thompson added. “The extensions of Secure Rural Schools and Payment-In-Lieu-of Taxes will provide a stable revenue stream to these communities, so that counties can provide basic services and children can access the education resources they deserve.”

Click here to view Thompson’s letter to the Transportation Conference Committee.