Thursday, September 4, 1997
Building Efficient Surface Transportation & Equity Act
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
Leadership Introduces BESTEA Includes all but one
of motorcyclists' 1997 legislative goals
Washington, D.C. On Thursday, September 4, 1997, the leadership of the
House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
finally introduced the much delayed legislation to re-authorize the
Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA). Committee Chairman
Bud Shuster (R-PA) and Ranking Minority Member James Oberstar (D-MN) were
joined by surface transportation subcommittee Chairman Tom Petri (R-WI) and
Ranking Minority Member Nick Joe Rahall (D-WV) as the prime sponsors of the
Building Efficient Surface Transportation and Equity Act (BESTEA). The BESTEA
legislation has been assigned the number H.R.2400 and the text and other documents
related to BESTEA are posted at the following website:
As introduced, BESTEA addresses every concern that motorcyclists asked
Congress to take action on in 1997 with one exception. Motorcyclists asked
Congress to include provisions in this legislation that would, 1) ensure that
motorcyclists had access to all roads that used federal taxes, 2) keep
motorcycle safety as a national priority within safety programs at the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) but put an emphasis on
accident prevention over injury prevention, 3) ensure that development of the
Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) would include the needs of
motorcyclists, 4) incentive grants on any issue should be based on
performance instead of only being able to qualify by passing certain laws.
All four of these items are in the legislation. And, for those following
off-road issues, everything motorcyclists wanted in revamping the National
Recreational Trails Act is included.
In addition, motorcyclists asked Congress to make sure some policies were not
enacted. Our main concern was ensuring that no provisions penalizing states
without helmet laws were included. Further, we were opposed to other penalty
provisions designed to blackmail states into passing certain safety laws.
BESTEA contains no penalties on any issue, none on helmets, none on seat
belts, none on DUI laws.
The only issue motorcyclists are advocating not included in the legislation
is our effort to stop NHTSA from lobbying state legislators on the helmet law
issue. By no means is this a dead issue, it is just too controversial to get
consensus of the four committee leaders. This issue will be pursued in other
ways as the legislation moves through the legislative process.
With a September 30th deadline looming, the Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee will act quickly on BESTEA. A surface transportation subcommittee
mark-up of BESTEA has been scheduled for Wednesday, September 10th and
Thursday, September 11th. The full committee is scheduled to mark-up the
legislation on Wednesday, September 17th and Thursday, September 18th. The
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is a little further behind,
with introduction of its version of the ISTEA re-authorization legislation
not expected for at least another week. The current ISTEA law expires on
September 30th, meaning that if re-authorization is not enacted by September
30th federal highway funds stop flowing to the states.
"Motorcyclists have been very successful in lobbying the House of
Representatives on our issues and that is reflected in BESTEA," stated Wayne
Curtin, MRF vice president of government relations. Curtin elaborated
saying, "Earlier this year, through the efforts coordinated by the MRF and
the American Motorcyclist Association's Washington Seminar, 128 motorcyclists
from 35 States came to Washington and lobbied their Congressional delegations
to gain support for motorcyclists' 1997 legislative agenda. To have
everything we asked for included in BESTEA, or not included as may be the
case, except our most controversial issue, is a major accomplishment.
Provisions included in BESTEA have been agreed to by the committee
leadership and there is little chance of efforts to alter these provisions
surfacing and with the leadership's support little chance of efforts to make
changes being successful."
On the issue of NHTSA lobbying Curtin stated, "With all of our other issues
included in BESTEA motorcyclists are now poised to put their efforts into
finalizing negotiations with senate staff and to focus our efforts on
building support for an amendment to stop NHTSA from lobbying State
legislators." Though not in the legislation, Chairmen Shuster and Petri have
begun a committee oversight investigation of NHTSA's lobbying activities.
The committee is expecting some answers from NHTSA in early September. Once
those answers are supplied we will make decisions about how to proceed.
When contacting your federal representative and senators, please ask them to
support all of the provisions in BESTEA that affect motorcyclists and to help
us add a provision that would prohibit NHTSA from spending funds authorized
under BESTEA to lobby state legislators on the helmet law issue.
Below is the BESTEA legislative language of the three key provisions
affecting on-road motorcyclists.
Prohibiting Banning of Motorcycles from Federally Funded Roads
Sec. 135 ACCESS OF MOTORCYCLES
Section 102 is amended by redesignating subsection (b) as subsection (c) and
inserting after subsection (a) the following:
"(b) ACCESS OF MOTORCYCLES -- No State or political subdivision of a State
may restrict the access of motorcycles on any highway or portion of highway
for which Federal-aid highway funds have been utilized for planning, design,
construction, or maintenance."
NHTSA Safety Program Priorities and Emphasis
Sec.202 HIGHWAY SAFETY PROGRAMS
(a) UNIFORMED GUIDELINES -- Section 402(a) is amended --
(1) in the fourth sentence by striking "(4)" and inserting "(4) to prevent
This language has two effects. One, it maintains motorcycle safety as a
national priority. Second, in the past NHTSA's legislative direction on
motorcycle safety only charged them "to reduce deaths and injuries resulting
from accidents involving motor vehicles and motorcycles." This change adds
accident prevention and puts it first to emphasize accident prevention. The
revised statute would read: "(4) to prevent accidents and to reduce deaths
and injuries resulting from accidents involving motor vehicles and
Intelligent Transportation System
Sec.652 SCOPE OF PROGRAM
(b) GOALS. The goals of the ITS program include --
(2) enhancement of safe operations of motor vehicles, including motorcycles,
and nonmotorized vehicles on the Nation's surface transportation systems,
with a particular emphasis on decreasing the number and severity of
(4) accommodation of the needs of all users of the Nation's surface
transportation systems, including the operators of commercial vehicles,
passenger vehicles and motorcycles;
For more information on what BESTEA means to motorcyclists
and what motorcyclists can do to help pass this legislation contact:
Wayne Curtin - V.P. for Govt. Relations, MRF
202-546-0983 or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.