WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) today praised Senate passage of MAP-21, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization bill. Senator Cardin championed three separate provisions in the bill designed specifically to aid the completion of the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS) and assure federal support for access roads in Appalachian counties such as Maryland’s Garrett, Allegany, and Washington.
MAP-21 consolidates many federal highway programs to give states more flexibility and discretion in the use of the federal-aid transportation dollars. The bill consolidates the ADHS with several highway programs into the new Transportation Mobility Program. Throughout the process, Senator Cardin worked hard to assure the lasting viability and ultimate completion of the ADHS under this new highway program consolidation policy.
Senator Cardin worked with the leaders of the Environment and Public Works Committee to include a provision in the bill ending the seven-year-old prohibition of states’ use of toll credits on ADHS projects. The ADHS toll credit provision was based on legislation introduced by Senator Cardin and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) in May 2011. The prohibition on the use of toll credits has been a barrier to completing Corridor N (U.S. Route 219) and Senator Cardin made it a priority to address this important concern with the ADHS program.
Senator Cardin also authored an amendment that was adopted ensuring ADHS local access roads will remain eligible for federal funding. Maryland plans to pursue $800,000 in ADHS local access road projects in Western Maryland this year and Senator Cardin’s local access roads amendment will make it possible for the state to carry out these plans.
“Many rural communities in Western Maryland depend on access roads to reach commercial development,” said Senator Cardin. “I fought for this amendment because I know how critical access roads are for job creation and economic growth in Maryland and the entire Appalachian region.”
To address concerns that Appalachian states may not prioritize completing the ADHS, Senator Cardin was able get agreement to increase the federal cost share for ADHS projects to 95 percent over a five-year period. This will allow states to proceed with ADHS projects without having to provide any state matching money and provide a critical incentive for states to build the remaining incomplete ADHS corridors.
“I have heard from business and civic leaders in Western Maryland about the importance of the ADHS to economic growth in the region and keeping residents connected to the rest of the country,” said Senator Cardin. “That is why I made the preservation of this program and the development of important incentive provisions to facilitate the completion of the ADHS a top priority of mine during the Senate’s consideration of the Surface Transportation Reauthorization bill.”
The ADHS is crucial in connecting geographically isolated Appalachian communities to the National Highway System and the rest of the nation, but accessing the ADHS can be challenging for many rural communities. Many of those communities rely heavily on access roads to travel to jobs and commercial development such as business parks. Under existing federal law, states have been allowed to use ADHS funds for access roads. However, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization bill being considered by the Senate threatened funding by making access roads near the ADHS ineligible for federal highway funds. Senator Cardin’s amendment alters that provision of the bill to ensure that access roads near the ADHS remain eligible for federal highway funding.