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October 30, 2020 1:15 PM, EDT

New House Bill Promotes Transportation Technologies

Road tech illustrationKeattisak A/Getty Images

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Legislation that aims to promote the adoption of new technologies throughout the country’s transportation networks recently was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Strengthening Methods to Advance Research and Technology, or SMART, Act, introduced by Rep. Troy Balderson (R-Ohio), would aim to advance innovation, efficiency and new safety programs across transportation corridors.

Specifically, the bill would authorize several programs at the U.S. Department of Transportation. The programs pertain to advanced technologies, connected vehicles, automated driving systems and digital construction management systems. Rural areas would be covered under the bill, according to background provided by the congressman’s office.

“In central Ohio, we’re proud of our history as a national leader in smart mobility and advanced transportation research,” Balderson, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said in a statement Oct. 29.

“I’ve seen firsthand the state-of-the-art research and work being done in this community that will improve road safety and create more efficient transit options throughout Ohio,” he said. “I’m excited to continue working with our local transportation thought leaders like DriveOhio and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission to continue these efforts.”

The measure was referred to the committee of jurisdiction.

Several stakeholders applauded the legislation’s introduction. In a statement accompanying the bill’s release, Howard Wood, DriveOhio executive director, noted: “The bill reflects a deep appreciation of our world-class automotive research and development ecosystem. … As we develop the transportation system of the 21st century, communities and institutions from across the state of Ohio will benefit from this legislation.”

Earlier this year, the congressman offered various policy proposals to a Republican version of a multiyear highway bill.

The Surface Transportation Advanced through Reform, Technology, & Efficient Review, or STARTER, Act, sought to:

  • Enhance access to freight and commuter corridors.
  • Establish a national highway freight program.
  • Improve truck parking safety.
  • Examine the environmental review process.
  • Enhance access to bus facilities.
  • Boost technical assistance and workforce development.

“The STARTER Act is a reasonable, common-sense approach to improving our infrastructure that focuses on state flexibility, reasonable regulation reform, traditional core transportation needs, preparing our system for future transportation technologies, and a greater emphasis on rural America’s often neglected infrastructure needs,” Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said in June. He is the ranking member on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“The Senate has worked in a bipartisan manner so far, and House Republicans remain ready to work constructively if this process moves forward in a meaningful way,” Graves added. “The [Democratic] majority’s bill that was approved in committee today isn’t going to get signed into law, and the only path to improving our infrastructure and putting America back to work is through partnership, not partisanship.”

Congress, which did not take up the House Republican’s highway bill, approved a yearlong extension of a 2015 highway policy law. The committee’s leaders — Graves and Chairman Peter DeFazio — insisted they would update the law prior to its expiration next year.

“While we had hoped to reach an agreement between the House and the Senate this year on a modern, multiyear surface transportation bill that moves our country forward, the single most important factor right now is providing certainty to states and local governments that are under the strain of both the pandemic and the resulting economic downturn,” DeFazio (D-Ore.) said in a statement in September. “With this one-year extension in place, we can continue work on a long-term, transformational bill that significantly boosts investment in our surface transportation network and moves our transportation systems into the 21st century.”

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