Pennsylvania lawmaker to head up transportation committee
December 11, 2012
In January, there
will be a new captain in the wheelhouse when it comes to legislative oversight
of the workboat industry.
Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., has
been selected to lead the influential House Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee, which shapes laws that affect the operation and funding of the
nation’s waterways system. Shuster will assume the post when the new Congress
convenes in January. He replaces Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., who must step down due
to leadership term limits imposed by House Republicans.
This could bode well for the
workboat industry. Although Shuster served as chairman of the railroads
subcommittee, he has taken an interest in the waterways and hails from Pennsylvania,
which has a big economic stake in having a well funded, smoothly operating
Shuster, whose father Bud
chaired the House Transportation committee in the 1990s and is now retired, has
toured several aging locks and dams and worked closely with the American
Waterways Operators on several issues before the full committee. He visited the
Chicamauga Lock on the Tennessee River near Chattanooga, Tenn., last March, and
observed barging operations along the Monongahela River in the Pittsburgh area
in September, taking a ride on a Campbell
Transportation barge and visiting the Charleroi Lock and Dam.
Since being selected chairman
of the Transportation Committee, Shuster has said that he favors reforming the
Inland Waterways Trust Fund to improve how lock and dam projects are funded,
and that raising taxes on the barge industry to pay for infrastructure
improvements could be an option. It’s not clear whether this means he would
endorse the proposed increase in the diesel fuel tax included in an industry-supported
plan to reform waterways funded. Raising those taxes has been a sticky point
for other Republicans.
In several press interviews,
Shuster stated that one of his top priorities in the new Congress would be
passing the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), the vehicle for the
nation’s waterways policy.
Shuster will face some
daunting transportation infrastructure and funding issues that will most
certainty test his Republican inclinations to cut spending and limit tax
It will be interesting to
watch how his leadership evolves on waterways funding and policies, and to what
extent he will broaden his interest and friendship with the workboat industry.