Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., is suggesting that the government give states more discretion when it comes to spending federal transportation dollars.

"We won't just be doing short term paving and sidewalk projects," he told Todd Zwillich, of the Transportation Nation blog, in an exclusive interview this week. "We'll be doing long term investment in infrastructure."

The chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee announced earlier this month that he'd initiate a process in February to help the committee craft a new multi-year surface transportation bill. The most recent surface transport reauthorization law expired on Sept. 30, 2009, and has been operating on short-term extensions since then.

Mica told The Journal of Commerce that beginning on or around Feb. 18 he would begin field hearings or "listening sessions" outside of Washington to get more input from local and regional officials on what should be in the next transportation legislation.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said this week that he was confident a multiyear bill to would be passed by Congress and signed into law by the August summer recess.

The Obama administration has proposed a six-year reauthorization to fund the nation's infrastructure programs, including a $50 billion front-end infusion.

Mica has served as the committee's Republican leader during the previous two Congressional sessions. He has been a member of the committee since his election to Congress in 1992.

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Audio courtesy of Transportation Nation