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Manchin votes to fund transportation and highway projects

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) voted in support of two bills on Thursday, July 30 that will ensure funding for transportation and highway projects across West Virginia.

Manchin voted to pass the House’s 3-month extension in order to avoid the July 31funding lapse. He also voted to pass the Developing Roadway Infrastructure for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE) Act of 2015, which is the Senate’s long-term, 6-year transportation bill that the House may take up after the August recess.

“I would have preferred to just pass the Senate’s long-term transportation bill, which would renew highway and infrastructure projects for six years and reauthorize the U.S. Export-Import Bank to support West Virginia small businesses,” Manchin said.“ However, like we have done in the past, we are continuing to govern by crisis. The House left town yesterday after refusing to take up the long-term bill, so we had to also pass another stop-gap funding bill to ensure we could continue to maintain the 38,000 miles of public roads within West Virginia’s borders. Investing in our infrastructure is one of the best ways to create jobs, boost economic development and improve conditions in our local communities.  My hope is that Congress will be able to pass a long-term extension of this vital funding immediately upon returning from the August recess.”

The House also passed a second short-term bill, which lasts for 5 months.  After the August recess, the chambers may take up each other’s bill, which will have to then be conferenced.

Below is a list of Manchin’s provisions that were included in the Senate’s long-term, 6-year transportation bill:

Drug Free Commercial Driver Act of 2015: Currently, responsible motor carriers that are voluntarily investing in hair testing face the additional, duplicative burden of paying for urinalysis testing to comply with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations. This bill remedies that situation by allowing hair testing to be an acceptable alternative to urinalysis.

Amtrak Boarding Procedures Study: This provision the Amtrak Office of the Inspector General to submit a report to Congress evaluating Amtrak’s boarding procedures — including those for passengers transporting wheelchairs and bicycles — at its 15 busiest stations and to make recommendations for improvements.

Volatility report: Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of Transportation (DOT) are currently working on a study of crude oil volatility. This language would require those agencies, upon completion of their study, to submit a report to Congress on the findings of that study and require the agencies to include recommendations for either regulatory or congressional action based on the study results.

Stop Motorcycle Checkpoint Funding: This amendment prohibits DOT from providing any grants for any program designed to check motorcycle helmet usage or to create motorcycle checkpoints with the specific goal of targeting motorcyclists and motorcycle passengers.

Electronically Controlled Pneumatic (ECP) Brakes: This provision revises the ECP standard, which requires trains carrying crude oil and ethanol be equipped by 2021 or 2023 with ECP brakes that can prevent the “pile-up” effect during a derailment, to language for GAO to study ECP brakes and for National Cooperative Rail Research Program to conduct field testing to determine the justifiability of ECP brakes.

Track, Railroad, and Infrastructure Network (TRAIN) Act: This language reforms the environmental permitting process for rail projects in order to facilitate a more efficient way to approve rail infrastructure.

State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) language: This amendment ensures that railroads provide a SERC for each State in which it operates trains transporting 1,000,000 gallons or more of Bakken crude oil with notification regarding the expected movement of such trains through the counties in the State.

Increased High-Hazard Flammable Trains reporting requirements: This language directs DOT to implement a reporting requirement to monitor industry-wide progress toward modifying tank cars used in high-hazard flammable train service by the applicable deadlines or authorization end dates set in regulation.

Positive Train Control (PTC) language: This provision requires Each Class I railroad carrier and each entity providing regularly scheduled intercity or commuter rail passenger transportation to develop and submit a plan to DOT by December 31, 2015, for completing component installation and spectrum acquisition by December 31, 2018, and activate its PTC system without undue delay.

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