Congresswoman Chellie Pingree has joined an effort to get a transportation bill through the US House before the current funding expires at the end of this month. Pingree has cosponsored a bipartisan transportation bill that was overwhelmingly passed by the Senate last week and contains an important provision that would preserve critical funding for the Downeaster passenger rail service.
“The transportation bill passed by the Senate is one that Democrats and Republicans can agree on. If Republican leaders in the House would just let us vote on it, we could get it on the President’s desk before the current funding runs out at the end of the month. But instead they are stuck on a highly partisan bill that slashes infrastructure investments and ends federal funding for the Downeaster,” said Pingree. said.
The House version of the transportation bill has proved so unpopular that Republican leaders haven’t even been able to bring it to the floor for a vote, while the bipartisan Senate version passed with a 74 to 22 vote.
In addition to the critical Downeaster funding, the bill provides funding for highway projects around the country—funding that runs out at the end of this month.
“Half the roads in this country and 70,000 bridges are in disrepair and structurally deficient,” Pingree said. “Passing this funding will support nearly 7,500 jobs in Maine and put thousands of people to work across the country repairing this critical infrastructure.”
The House bill eliminates a provision that has allowed the Downeaster passenger rail service to access $6 million a year in Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) funding. CMAQ funding is intended to support projects for a maximum of three years, but Congress has consistently granted waivers allowing the funding to continue for the Downeaster and other similar rail lines around the country. However, the proposed House bill does not allow an extension of that CMAQ funding while the version passed by the Senate does allow the funding to continue.
Pingree and Congressman Mike Michaud have sponsored an amendment to the House bill to also allow the Downeaster funding, but that bill has yet to be brought to the floor for a vote by House Republican leadership.