The House has passed H.R. 3684, the INVEST in America Act, a $715 billion bill that reauthorizes surface transportation programs for five year and makes critical investments to the nation’s water infrastructure. The bill passed 221 – 201, with just two Republicans, Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), joining Democrats in support of the legislation.
Leading to the floor for consideration, the House removed a key provision that would have established a national pilot for a vehicle mile traveled (VMT) fee, however maintained an increase in funding for state-level VMT pilots. Additionally, the House Ways and Means Committee did not offer a revenue title to support the needs of the Highway Trust Fund or provide financing opportunities, instead opting for a bailout from the General Fund.
The final surface transportation portion of the legislation totals $592 billion, with $43.8 billion in general fund authorizations adopted on the floor through amendments.
New or increased funding authorizations made by House amendments include:
- $1.8 billion in additional general fund authorizations for the Federal Highway Administration’s Forest Service legacy roads and trails.
- Reauthorization of the FAST Act’s Regional Accelerator demo program and the Historic Preservation Fund.
- Increasing transportation equity research from $2 million to $8 million annually.
- An additional $1 billion annually, over five years, in general fund authorizations for the new PRIME railroad grant program.
- A $36.6 billion electric vehicles division of the legislation.
Prior to the additional funding being added on the floor, the bill included $343 billion for highways, bridges, and safety projects; $109 billion for transit; $95 billion for freight and passenger rail; $8.3 billion to reduce carbon pollution; $6.2 billion for mitigation and resiliency improvements; and $5.7 billion in Member Designated Projects, or more commonly known as earmarks, which Congress brought back earlier this year.
Additionally, prior to floor consideration, the House added three key water bills to the INVEST in America Act. These bills include H.R. 3293 and H.R. 1915, both which ASCE has endorsed, and H.R. 3291.
- R. 3293, or the Low-Income Water Customer Assistance Program Act, creates a permanent, nationwide program for low-income water customer assistance and directs the EPA to provide technical assistance funding to states to ensure maximum enrollment of eligible households.
- R. 3291 authorizes $53 billion over 10 years for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, as well as $45 billion to fully replace lead service lines throughout the country.
- R. 1915, or the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2021, authorizes $50 billion in wastewater and stormwater infrastructure funding over five years.
During debate, the House approved 27 amendments to the water title, including an amendment that would require any wastewater utility receiving funding from the Clean Water SRF to first undergo a climate resiliency assessment to ensure the infrastructure is prepared for future droughts and storms.
House passage of a surface transportation reauthorization, as well as of language that address the Clean Water and Drinking Water state revolving funds, comes after the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee passed their portions of the surface transportation bill and after the full Senate passed S. 914, a $35 billion drinking water and wastewater bill.
The question now remains, how will the House surface transportation bill be linked to broader efforts to pass an infrastructure package? While in a normal reauthorization year, we could expect a conference with a Senate counterpart, the House bill might eventually be conferenced with a bipartisan, broader, infrastructure agreement that has been carefully negotiated with a group of Senators and the White House. With legislative text still anticipated on the Senate agreement, the question will become if the Senate and House can get a reauthorization to the President before programs expire on September 30th.
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