Senate Commerce Passes Bipartisan Surface Transportation Reauthorization


Last week Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-MS) introduced S. 2016, the Surface Transportation Investment Act (STIA). STIA is a five-year, $78 billion authorization of many key agencies at the Department of Transportation (DOT) including the Office of the Secretary (OST), Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Leading into Wednesday’s markup roughly 250 amendments were proposed and approved en bloc with bipartisan support. Vote on final passage was largely bipartisan (25-3) with Sens. Cruz, Lee, and Rick Scott voting against the legislation.

Beyond topline investments, STIA provides:

  • $36.1 billion ($10.3 billion under FAST Act) for the FRA and Amtrak
    • $6.5 billion ($2.5 billion under FAST Act) for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) and $12.6 billion ($5.4 billion under FAST Act) for the National Network (NN);
    • $137.5 million ($105 million under FAST Act) for Amtrak’s Inspector General;
    • $7.5 billion ($997 million under FAST Act) for Federal-State Partnership grants;
    • $250 million ($100 million under FAST Act) for Restoration and Enhancement Grants; and
    • $5 billion ($1.1 billion under FAST Act) for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program.
  • $4.4 billion ($3.2 billion under FAST Act) for the FMCSA
  • $7.8 billion ($3.7 billion under FAST Act) for the NHTSA

Outside of the specific agencies, STIA provides $28 billion for multimodal and freight investments. This includes $6.5 billion ($4.5 billion under FAST Act) for the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects grant program (INFRA); $7.5 billion over 5 years is provided for the RAISE/BUILD program; and authorizes a new office of Multimodal Freight Infrastructure and Policy, updates the National Freight Strategic Plan, and improves coordination between the federal and state governments on freight planning.

ASCE supports many of the provisions included in the legislation and Executive Director Tom Smith stated, “We applaud your efforts and offer our support for S. 2016, Surface Transportation Investment Act (STIA). Your five-year, $78 billion authorization addresses the growing challenges facing human safety and our multimodal surface transportation network by providing a vital increase in funding levels to address project backlogs, provide much-needed program stability, and give added attention to freight corridors.”

In ASCE’s 2021 Infrastructure Report Card, our nation’s roads, rail, and ports received the grades of “D,” “B,” and “B-,” respectively. These grades reflect that 40-percent of our roadway system is currently in poor or mediocre condition; over 36,000 people are dying per year on the nation’s roadways; over 6,000 pedestrians in 2019 were killed, marking a 60-percent increase of pedestrian fatalities from 10 years prior and the highest number since 1988; and only 9-percent of intermodal connector pavement are in good or very good condition. Despite the strong grade provided for our rail infrastructure, passenger investment has not kept pace with investments made by freight rail.

In late May, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee introduced, marked up, and unanimously passed the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act (STRA) of 2021. STRA is a five-year, $303.5 billion reauthorization of core federal highway and bridge programs and represents a 22-percent increase from current FAST Act funding levels. Meanwhile, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Democrats passed the INVEST in America Act, a $547 billion surface transportation authorization that will head to the floor the week on June 28th. The Senate Banking and Finance Committees as well as the House Ways and Means Committee have yet to release their transit and revenue titles.

As Congress continues its work to reauthorize our surface transportation programs before September 30th, ASCE urges lawmakers to come together to address our surface transportation challenges and provide world class infrastructure fit for the 21st century.

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