The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry strongly supports efforts in Congress to pass a multi-year federal highway funding bill. It has been ten years since the last long-term funding bill. The series of short-term extensions that Congress has passed in recent years have prevented state transportation planners from moving forward on much-needed strategic transportation projects and have resulted in higher construction costs.
We are encouraged by the progress being made in the U.S. House of Representatives, which today passed its version of a six-year highway bill with three years of funding by a vote of 363-64. Under the leadership of new Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, the House voted on nearly 130 amendments to the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015. The version passed today includes renewed funding for the Export-Import Bank, which is good news for base industries in Arizona that rely on the Bank to compete with companies in other countries. The original version of the House bill authorized $325 billion in funding, the majority of which goes to highways. An amendment adopted on Thursday added an additional $40 billion. The Senate version authorized $342 billion.
The House and the Senate must now reconcile their bills and come up with consensus revenue sources to provide the funding for the entire six-years. They must accomplish this difficult task by November 20, which is the date the latest short-term extension expires.
The legislation being considered by Congress provides many benefits to Arizona’s economy. The Arizona Chamber is grateful for the hard work of our Congressional delegation to ensure that high priority projects are included in the final bill. In particular, the Sonoran Corridor south of Tucson will connect Interstate 10 with Interstate 19, facilitating the flow of commerce across the Mexican border. Interstate 11, which would run from Southern Arizona through Phoenix and to Las Vegas, is included in both the House and Senate versions of the highway bill. Interstate 11 promises to significantly increase international trade opportunities for Arizona-based businesses.
The Arizona Chamber will closely monitor developments as Congress attempts to reconcile the House and Senate bills and finalize funding for the entire six-years. We will continue to support a funding structure that emphasizes a user-pays model, provides certainty to state transportation planners and prioritizes projects that advance trade and commerce.