This week the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act. After a marathon markup that lasted until 5 am on Thursday, T&I passed the final version of the INVEST in America Act. Vote was largely partisan (38-26) with Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA1) and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR) voting in favor of the legislation.
The bill from House Democrats is a five-year $547 billion surface transportation authorization that provides $433 billion in Highway Trust Fund (HTF) spending, including $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. Beyond core investments, the INVEST in America Act emphasizes repairing the nation’s existing highway/road and bridge infrastructure and directing high investment levels to passenger rail, public transit, pedestrian (cycling and walking) infrastructure, addressing climate change impacts, as well as resilience.
Topline funding levels include:
- $334.2 billion ($226.5 billion under FAST Act) for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA);
- $108.5 billion ($61.1 billion under FAST Act) for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA);
- $9.9 billion ($6.9 billion under FAST Act) for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA);
- $94.6 billion ($10.3 billion under FAST Act) for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA); and
- $5.7 billion in Member Designated Projects (earmarks)
Over 200 amendments were considered. Along with Chairman DeFazio’s manager’s amendment, 3 Democratic and 8 Republican amendments were approved. These approved amendments would require transit agencies receiving federal funds to obey underlying federal law regarding rolling stock purchases, create a University Rail Climate Innovation Institute, require a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on the utilization of nature-based solutions for improving the resilience of coastal highways and bridges, and require a joint FHWA and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) study of evacuation route vulnerability to flooding and storm surge.
ASCE supports many of the provisions included in the legislation. Executive Director Tom Smith noted, “We applaud your efforts and offer our support for the INVEST in America Act. Your five-year, $547 billion authorization addresses the growing challenges facing our roads, bridges, and transit systems by providing a vital increase in funding levels to address project backlogs, provide much-needed program stability, and give added attention to safety, the impacts of climate change, and resiliency.”
In ASCE’s 2021 Infrastructure Report Card, our nation’s roads, bridges, and transit systems received the grades of “D,” “C,” and “D-” respectively. These poor grades reflect that 40-percent of our roadway system is currently in poor or mediocre condition, 46,154 bridges are still considered in “poor” condition, and there is a growing $176 billion transit project backlog with roughly 45-percent of Americans still lacking access to transit. These alarming conditions are felt in both urban and rural communities across the nation. Simply put, inaction is not an option, and strong leadership is needed to improve our safety and increase our economic competitiveness.
In May, House Transportation and Infrastructure Republicans introduced the Surface Transportation Advanced through Reform, Technology, & Efficient Review (STARTER) Act 2.0. The Republican bill is a five-year authorization and provides $400 billion in funding for the federal highway, transit, and motor carrier and highway safety programs. STARTER Act 2.0 includes provisions that streamline project delivery, provides states flexibility in project selection, supports resilience, and provides HTF revenue solutions. House Republicans introduced the bill to share their surface transportation priorities after negotiations for a bipartisan bill with House Democrats failed.
Over in the Senate, the Environment and Public Works Committee has passed a bipartisan, five-year reauthorization, however the other committees of jurisdiction, namely Commerce, Banking and Finance have yet to release their own titles. With the House and Senate surface transportation bills possibly acting as a base for a broader infrastructure package, all eyes will be on House and Senate action over the upcoming weeks.
Current authorization expires on September 30, 2021.