MRF E-MAIL NEWS Motorcycle
236 Massachusetts Ave. NE
Washington, DC 20002-4980
For Immediate Release
2 July 2009
Contact: Jeff Hennie, MRF
Vice President of Government Relations
jeff at mrf.org
U.S. House Committee Moves Surface Transportation Bill
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation
(MRF) has learned that, with little pomp
and even less circumstance, the Unites States House of Representatives
subcommittee on Highways and Transit voice voted the Surface
Transportation Bill on to the full House Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee (HTIC). The 800-page bill lays out a plan for revamping the
nation's highway systems and safety programs not seen in the last few
decades. The spending bill, which is yet to receive a number or name – and
even more importantly a price tag – is mammoth.
The Highway Trust Fund (HTF) will be out of money 6 weeks before the fund
was supposed to be tapped out. Future predictions for the HTF, which is
funded through a national gas tax, are bleak. With more fuel-efficient
cars and record-breaking gas prices, Americans have done the unthinkable
the past few years – buy less gas. That conundrum will leave the HTF with
about $250 billion to be generated over the next 6 years. Congressman Jim
Oberstar, Chairman of the HTIC, wants to spend $500 billion. Talks between
the House, Senate and White House have completely broken down. Oberstar
would like to raise the gas tax, and both the Senate and the White House
shot that down immediately. This stalemate will likely delay the bill
significantly; some say well into 2012. At the same time, it could move
quickly, but that's not likely.
The bill does have some
motorcycle-specific provisions, the lion's share
of which are very positive. The MRF has been meeting with the committee
staff writing the bill for the past few years to ensure that motorcyclists
benefit from the legislation. For the first time, the highway safety funds
obligate a percentage that can only be used for motorcycle safety
programs. Depending on the percentage (all financial details at this point
are to be determined), the motorcycle safety community could see a huge
infusion of federal cash.
There is one provision that
the MRF will be aggressively working to
remove. In one section of the bill, some rules are laid out for Public
Private Partnerships (PPP). PPPs are stretches of toll road that a
community leases to a private sector partner. The partner pays the leasing
government up front and in turn gets to keep all the tolls for the length
of the lease. The city of Chicago leased a toll road for 99 years to a
private company for $1.8 billion in 2005. The provision of concern gives
the private sector partner the power to request from the Secretary of
Transportation a ban on motorcycles from the road. The private partner
must certify that the presence of motorcycles is causing a safety hazard.
The Secretary must approve the request. Current law allows for the same
situation, but gives the requesting power to the state agency, not a
private for-profit corporation.
Public Private Partnerships
have fallen out of favor with many
municipalities and individuals, but this section is still of grave
concern. It's troubling to think that roads built with federal tax dollars
could exclude motorcycles. Precedent has been set in our favor in the
past; convincing Congress will be our task.
The MRF will keep you informed
on the movement of the bill and of the
motorcycle-specific provisions in the bill.
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(c)All Information contained in this
release is copyrighted. Reproduction permitted with attribution. The Motorcycle
Riders Foundation, incorporated
in 1987, is a membership-based, national motorcyclists' rights organization headquartered in Washington, DC. The first motorcyclists'
rights organization to establish a full-time presence in Washington, DC, the Motorcycle Riders Foundation is the only Washington voice devoted
exclusively to the street rider. The MRF established MRFPAC in the early 1990s to advocate the election of candidates who would champion the cause
of rider safety and rider freedom.
The MRF proudly claims state motorcyclists'
rights organizations and the very founders of the American riders' rights movement
among its leading
members. The MRF is involved in federal and state legislation and regulations, motorcycling safety education, training, and public
awareness. The MRF provides members and state motorcyclists' rights organizations with direction and information, and sponsors annual regional
and national educational seminars for motorcyclists rights activists, as well as publishing a bi-monthly newsletter, THE MRF REPORTS.