As your representative in Congress, one of my foremost duties is to help ensure that South Texas receives our fair share of federal funding. Every five years, Congress passes a major transportation bill to fund national priorities such as highways, mass transit, and infrastructure repairs.
As of 2012, when the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) was signed into effect, these federal funds are now received directly by the state governments as lump sums of funding by which they decide how best to allocate the capital. MAP-21 authorized $105 billion for the Fiscal Years 2013 and 2014 for spending on federal highways and public transportation programs, surface transportation safety and research, and some rail programs and activities.
These funds have historically been allocated to either federal agencies working towards maintenance and improvement of transportation or specific transportation projects. Money provided to agencies account for approximately 99% of discretionary federal spending, which provides for the day-to-day financing of most federal activities. The practice of direct spending on transportation by lawmakers, which dates back centuries, allows Members of Congress to give to their communities in federal spending.
While the method by which the federal spending allocation has changed, my determination in ensuring that our District receives its fair share of funding has not.
With the country's largest inland port, totaling 1.7 million truck and 4.4 million automobile border crossings in 2012, there is a distinct need in our District for road maintenance and investment in transportation infrastructure.
One recent legislative action taken was the announcement of Loop 20 as a future section of Interstate-69. This was another outcome of I-69's designation as a High Priority Interstate when Congress amended the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act. This Act effectively added some of South Texas' busiest roadways into the I-69 system and dramatically improved the quality of our transportation system. Interstate-69's recognition by the federal government as an important aspect of the national transportation system further cements the fact that our District and all of South Texas are more vital than ever to our nation's economy.
Another interesting ongoing development is that of the Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study. In 2011, the Texas Department of Transportation was awarded $5 million to conduct research on the economic benefits of a passenger railway connecting Oklahoma City in the North through the Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, Laredo, and down to Monterrey, Mexico. The implications of this project's completion would be wide-reaching and economically burgeoning. This would help facilitate trade, tourism, and connect loved ones separated by hundreds of miles.