The U.S. House and Senate last night passed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or the FAST Act, a five-year transportation funding bill. The legislation is now headed to President Obama’s desk. We expect and encourage the President to sign this important legislation into law today, before the current funding expires.
The Arizona Chamber has long supported a highway funding bill that provides several years of investment so that our state and local transportation planners can move forward on critical projects. It has been a decade since the last time Congress passed a transportation funding bill lasting longer than two years. Having a reliable source of funding is important so the Arizona Department of Transportation and local planning authorities can invest in projects that will improve freight mobility and facilitate the movement of commerce.
Special thanks goes out to Senator John McCain and Senator Jeff Flake for working diligently to include provisions supporting the future I-11 connecting Phoenix north to Las Vegas. We are grateful to Senator McCain and Congresswoman Martha McSally for their work to designate the Sonoran Corridor as a future interstate to connect I-19 to I-10 south of the Tucson International Airport and I-80 south to Arizona’s southern border. These interstate improvements will greatly facilitate the ability of Arizona-based businesses to engage in domestic and international trade.
We are also encouraged that the US Export-Import Bank was reauthorized in this bill. The bank is critical to Arizona manufacturers’ ability to sell products to international markets. Without the bank, the US loses a valuable tool for promoting US exports.
And finally, thanks in large part to the leadership of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a structure will be imposed on the management, coordination, timing and transparency of the environmental review process for transportation projects. The permit streamlining provisions will provide much-needed reliability and consistency in the way that projects are reviewed, thus limiting unnecessary redundancies and speeding up the entire process.
Arizona’s business community relies on a strong transportation system. Getting manufactured goods to global markets keeps Arizona’s economy competitive. We applaud the passage of this bill.