Washington, D.C. U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., voted in favor of a fully funded, five-year highway authorization bill, says a statement from Wicker’s office. The legislation, H.R. 22, provides more than $300 billion for transportation and infrastructure projects, including more than $2.7 billion for investments in Mississippi. The Senate passed the measure by a vote of 83-16. The bill now awaits President Obama’s signature to become law.
“Simply put, the nation’s roads, bridges, and railroads need a shot in the arm,” Wicker said. “This bill does just that. It puts an end to years of inaction that have stalled critical highway and bridge projects, including some in Mississippi. Our state and local leaders are now armed with the certainty they need to plan ahead, which in turn will make the roads safer for drivers, boost economic growth, and create jobs.”
Wicker was successful in adding several provisions to the Highway Bill, including his passenger rail legislation, which was introduced in June with Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. Efforts to restore Amtrak service along the Gulf Coast, between New Orleans and Orlando, also took a major step forward. The bill funds a new Gulf Coast Working Group with a $500,000 grant specifically to help bring rail service back to the region, which was lost after Hurricane Katrina. That work will be aided by an innovative $20 million grant program created to provide assistance to applicants like the Southern Rail Commission for the purpose of initiating, restoring, or enhancing intercity rail passenger transportation.
The bill also includes Wicker’s proposal to reauthorize the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), which would approve $100 million annually over the next five years, including $10 million a year to improve rural broadband services. ARC is a regional economic developmentagency that funds projects to increase job opportunities, strengthen the capacity of the people of Appalachia, develop and improve Appalachia’s infrastructure, and build the Appalachian Development Highway System. Mississippi has 24 counties within ARC’s province.
Another provision authored by Wicker would allow local governments and metropolitan planning organizations to receive grants under the Technology and Innovation Deployment Program.