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JOHNSON STATEMENT ON THE OPENING OF THE TRANSPORTATION CONFERENCE

May 8, 2012

WASHINGTON – Today, Senate and House negotiators opened a conference committee to work out differences between the Senate- and House-passed bills dealing with the federal surface transportation reauthorization.   As Chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, which is responsible for authorizing the transit portion of the federal surface transportation program, Senator Johnson was named one of the conferees.  The Banking Committee’s public transportation piece of the bill maintains current funding levels, improves safety oversight, and streamlines the construction of public transportation projects.
 
Below are Chairman Johnson’s opening remarks as prepared for delivery.
 
“Chairman Boxer, thank you for organizing this conference meeting. I share with you the desire to produce a strong transportation bill quickly.  The Senate Banking Committee reported the public transportation title of MAP-21 unanimously in early February, and it is now time to finish this bill.
 
“Maintaining investment in our nation’s transportation infrastructure is priority of mine and of the Banking Committee.  I want to thank our Committee’s ranking member, Senator Shelby and our subcommittee chairman Senator Menendez for their help on the transit title. Americans make 35 million trips on public transportation every weekday.  The transit title of MAP-21 increases guaranteed formula funds for public transportation agencies.  This will help transit agencies address backlogged repairs, and it will create jobs.  The transit funding alone in the Senate bill supports 386,000 jobs.  
 
“MAP-21 also makes long overdue reforms like improving federal safety oversight for public transportation. These safety reforms have been stalled for 2 years.  We cannot let politics slow our work to complete a final bill.  
 
“In South Dakota, a transportation bill will support 10,000 jobs and improve our highways and rural transit service.   Twelve hundred of our state’s bridges, one out of every 5 bridges, are structurally deficient.  Our state needs the certainty of federal funding that a completed bill will provide.  We should not let another construction season go by with uncertain federal funding. 
 
“We need to work on a bi-partisan basis and send this bill to the President before the current extension expires.  I hope this conference will not be bogged down with controversial issues that do not relate to transportation.   Chairman Boxer and Chairman Mica, I look forward to working with you and all members of this conference. I hope we make quick progress.  Thank you.”
 
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