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Bipartisan Measure Would Empower Local Leaders, Improve Grant Process

September 19, 2014

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today introduced bipartisan legislation that would give local officials more control over the transportation planning process in their states and communities.

The “Innovation in Surface Transportation Act of 2014” is co-sponsored by Sens. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Mark Begich, D-Alaska.

“As a former mayor, I understand local leaders are often in the best position to make sound, cost-effective investment decisions,” said Sen. Booker. “This proposal will give New Jersey’s 565 municipalities a seat at the table and greater opportunities to fund innovative projects that will create jobs and boost the economy.”

“Local officials in Mississippi are on the front lines of America’s transportation challenges but often lack the resources to pay for critical improvements,” Sen. Wicker said. “This measure would enable these local leaders to have a larger role in deciding which projects merit consideration. In doing so, leaders could implement the most targeted and cost-effective solutions to meet unique and urgent infrastructure needs.”

Currently, less than 15 percent of all authorized federal highway funds and only one grant program are available to cities and counties. The grant program is both underfunded and overwhelmed with requests.

To combat this problem, the Booker-Wicker bill would allow local jurisdictions to compete for a larger share of federal funds on a competitive basis. Local jurisdictions, metropolitan planning organizations, transit providers, and others would be in charge of developing projects for consideration. Instead of federal bureaucrats making the decisions, a panel of local stakeholders would decide which projects to approve based on how the project could improve the transportation system, promote innovation, and spur economic development.

Mayors from the following New Jersey municipalities have sent letters supporting this legislation: Morristown, Atlantic City, Englewood, Woodbridge, Trenton, New Brunswick, Rahway, Fanwood, Hoboken, Linden, Plainfield, Hillside, Union, Clinton, Bloomfield, Roselle, and Elizabeth.