As we said the other day, even with the debate over health care reform sucking the media's attention, the U.S. Senate is busy with a lot of non-HCR items. There's the debate over the EPA's endangerment finding with regards to greenhouse gases, for one. Another bit of transportation-related news is the Senate's passage of the HIRE Act, which Wired considers the Senate's "first major piece of legislation in 2010."

While the bill is most concerned with jobs (HIRE stands for Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act), there are a lot of transportation infrastructure items in the language. Most importantly, the HIRE Act extends the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users and recapitalizes the Highway Trust Fund, which means highway funds will keep flowing. Yes, we're still a car-loving nation, but the bill does have a bit of love for cleaner transportation. For example, it says:
The HIRE Act would extend funding for the Metropolitan and Statewide Planning; Urbanized Area Formula Program; Clean Fuels Grant Program; Fixed Guideway Modernization; Bus and Bus-Related Equipment and Facilities; Elderly Individuals and Individuals with Disabilities; Other Than Urbanized Area Formula Program; Job Access Reverse Commute; New Freedom; Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in the Parks Program; National Transit Database; Alternatives Analysis; Growing States and High Density States; Over the Road Bus Accessibility Program ; Research Programs, including University Centers at the 2009 authorized levels through December 31, 2010. The HIRE Act would extend Capital Investment Grants and FTA Administration at the FY 2010 appropriated levels through December 31, 2010.
We admit we can't really understand all of that, but any piece of legislation that talks about clean fuels and bus programs can't be all bad, can it? Wired explains that the real benefits of this bill could come a little later this year as a result of the sausage-making that was required to pass the HIRE Act. Get the details here.

[Source: U.S. Senate via Wired | Image: woodleywonderworks - C.C. License 2.0]

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