Legislative Update

The FAST Act Expires in September Furthering the Need for Urgency on Transportation Reauthorization.

Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, released the text of the “Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America” (INVEST in America) Act.

The bill’s original cosponsors are Subcommittee on Highways and Transit Chair Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Chair Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.). At press time, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee continued to debate the highway policy bill after kicking off the measure’s consideration on June 17.

The INVEST in America Act, which enables the completion of critical projects through long-term, sustainable funding, “is fueled by American workers and ingenuity thanks to strong Buy America provisions and labor protections; authorizes nearly $500 billion over five years to address some of the country’s most urgent infrastructure needs.”

The bill includes Highways Investment of $319 billion, which the committee said:

  • Delivers better roads and bridges faster by prioritizing fixing the broken, outdated infrastructure we already have, including 47,000 structurally deficient bridges, before building new highway capacity.
  • Modernizes our infrastructure with bold new funding for addressing gridlock and the most impactful projects and bottlenecks that affect local regions and the national transportation network.
  • Measures state-by-state greenhouse gas emissions, with incentives for best performers in carbon pollution reduction, and a new program to fund resilient infrastructure that can withstand the impacts of climate change.
  • Dramatically increases funding for development of charging stations and other alternative fueling options for electric and zero-emissions vehicles.
  • Addresses rising rates of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths by requiring states with the highest rates to set aside funding to tackle the problem, codifies and expands eligibility for safe routes to school, provides funding to develop active transportation networks, and strengthens emphasis on high risk rural roads.
  • Doubles funding for technology deployment to increase innovation and creates new program to fund green materials research and to deploy green construction materials and practices to create smarter, more efficient transportation systems.

The INVEST in America Act also accounts for the economic downturn caused by the global pandemic and ensures states, cities, tribes, territories and transit agencies can administer programs, advance projects and preserve jobs in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis.

The INVEST in America Act authorizes a sharp increase in funding to continue current programs in the first year of enactment of the bill (FY 2021) with wider policy implementation occurring in FY 2022.

“The bulk of our nation’s infrastructure – our roads, bridges, public transit and rail systems, the things that hundreds of millions of American families and businesses rely on every single day – is not only badly outdated, in many places it’s downright dangerous and holding our economy back. Yet for decades, Congress has repeatedly ignored the calls for an overhaul and instead simply poured money into short-term patches. The result? We’re still running our economy on an inefficient, 1950s-era system that costs Americans increasingly more time and money while making the transportation sector the nation’s biggest source of carbon pollution,” DeFazio said.

“That all changes with the INVEST in America Act. After holding nearly 20 Committee hearings, receiving testimony from dozens and dozens of witnesses and Members of Congress, and engaging with hundreds of advocates and transportation agencies, I am proud to bring together the ideas and the needs into one transformational bill that will catapult our country into a new era of how we plan, build, and improve U.S. infrastructure. The INVEST in America Act is our opportunity to replace the outdated systems of the past with smarter, safer, more resilient infrastructure that fits the economy of the future, creates millions of jobs, supports American manufacturing, and restores U.S. competitiveness.”

The National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association’s (NSSGA) President and CEO Michael W. Johnson issued the following statement on the introduction of the INVEST in America Act.

“I commend Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio and his team introducing INVEST in America Act,” Johnson said. “This is an important step forward. As we continue to review the bill text, we greatly appreciate the Chairman’s inclusion of the ROCKS Act. Stone, sand and gravel are essential raw materials found in every road, bridge, transit and public works project. Ensuring communities are able to access these materials is smart policy that will reduce environmental impacts and allows for greater economic development. We would like to specifically thank Congressman Greg Stanton (D-Ariz.) and Congressman Troy Balderson (R-Ohio), for their bipartisan work to advance this important legislation.

“While NSSGA will continue to work with Congressional stakeholders to advance sound and effective infrastructure policies, one thing is certain – infrastructure funding is long overdue and will be the key to leading our economic recovery,” Johnson said. “Our infrastructure has been suffering the effects of chronic underinvestment for years. Now our broader economy is suffering too. Unemployment rates are higher than they have been since the Great Depression. We built our way out of the Depression, and we need to do so again now. Significant, comprehensive infrastructure investment was crucial then, and it is equally as necessary now. This is not the time for politics but rather solutions that generate bipartisan support and can be quickly enacted. Infrastructure investment is not only the answer to fixing our roads and bridges, it is also the fastest and most enduring way to create jobs and realize a real economic recovery. The time to act is now.”

The Portland Cement Association (PCA) issued the following statement in light of the House introduction of the INVEST in America Act.

“America’s cement manufacturers commend House Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman DeFazio for the introduction of the INVEST in America Act, a five-year surface transportation reauthorization bill. The significant increases in funding in the INVEST in America Act are critically important as our nation deals with high unemployment and economic stagnation as result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Michael Ireland, PCA president and CEO. “PCA stands ready to work with Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate in delivering a robust and bipartisan surface transportation reauthorization bill.”

American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) President and CEO Dave Bauer said, “If America can put astronauts back in space for the first time in nearly a decade with a little help from the private sector, surely we can do something similar to modernize our aging transportation network. With the most severe economic disruption since the Great Depression and continuity of state transportation improvement programs in doubt, the case for Congress to deliver a robustly funded infrastructure bill has never been stronger.

“The transportation construction industry, in partnership with public agency officials, is ready to rebuild the nation’s highways, bridges and public transit systems,” Bauer said. “The release of the House bill complements efforts already underway in the Senate. The FAST Act transportation law expires in less than 120 days. It’s time to hit the gas on the legislative process to ensure that infrastructure investment springboards economic recovery.”

“Investing in our nation’s infrastructure benefits all Americans and has enjoyed strong support by members of Congress from both sides of the aisle,” said Dennis Slater, president of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM). “The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s release of its draft surface transportation bill is an important step in the reauthorization process, as were efforts by the U.S. Senate last summer. We strongly encourage the U.S. House to maintain this bipartisan momentum. The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession have severely impacted equipment manufacturers and the 2.8 million men and women of our industry. Republicans and Democrats must agree on legislation that prioritizes American jobs and provides long-term funding for critical infrastructure modernization. Infrastructure investment is the bipartisan solution that will help us out of this sluggish economic pace, rebuilding our economy and our aging roads, bridges, and highways.”

Associated Equipment Distributors (AED) President and CEO Brian P. McGuire released the following statement concerning the INVEST in America Act:

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was long overdue for our leaders in Washington to provide substantial, long-term surface transportation investments to rebuild our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Now, there’s a renewed necessity as the United States stares directly into a significant economic downturn, state Departments of Transportation are unable to fund future construction projects and equipment dealers and their customers are facing significant uncertainty.

“AED urges Congress and the administration to immediately work in a bipartisan manner to complete the surface transportation reauthorization process. There should be no more excuses – everyone in Washington knows what needs to be done and now is the time to rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure, put people back to work and generate economic growth for years to come.”

Jim Tymon, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) executive director, noted, “Reauthorizing the federal surface transportation programs before they expire this fall is a priority for state DOTs and this is the first step in that process in the House,” he said. “We appreciate that Chairman DeFazio’s proposed legislation recognizes the challenging financial situation that state DOTs are in now due to the national COVID-19 response.”

Yet Tymon noted that it is “disappointing” that this critical bill was not developed in a bipartisan manner, emphasizing that transportation has “traditionally been a bipartisan issue” and both sides of the aisle must work together to get a surface transportation bill “over the finish line” – similar to the unanimous passage by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works of a surface transportation bill in July 2019.

“We remain encouraged that infrastructure appears to be a priority in both the House and the Senate,” he said. “We look forward to working with Congressional leaders to enact legislation before the expiration of the FAST Act that will fully fund the Highway Trust Fund and ensure the nation’s transportation system remains the backbone to economic vitality and overall quality of life.”

The Senate bill, among other things:

  • Reauthorizes several transportation programs from FY2021-FY2025, including the federal-aid highway program and the transportation infrastructure finance and innovation program.
  • Increases funding for tribal and federal lands transportation programs.
  • Provides for a bridge investment program to award competitive grants to certain governmental entities for projects that improve (1) the condition of bridges; and (2) the safety, efficiency, and reliability of the movement of people and freight over bridges.
  • Requires the Department of Transportation to encourage each state to develop a voluntary plan that provides for the immediate and long-term personnel and workforce needs of the state to deliver transportation and public infrastructure projects.
  • Establishes a two-year goal for the completion of environmental review with respect to highway projects and a 90-day timeline for related project authorizations.
  • Sets forth several new climate-related grant programs, including for resiliency, carbon reduction, charging and refueling, alternative road user fees, carbon capture, and diesel emissions.
  • Expands the flexibility and eligible uses of formula funds provided out of the Highway Trust Fund.
  • Prioritizes the research and development of animal detection systems that reduce the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions.

At press time it was also reported that the Trump administration is preparing a nearly $1 trillion infrastructure proposal as part of its push to spur the world’s largest economy back to life, according to people familiar with the plan.

A preliminary version being prepared by the Department of Transportation would reserve most of the money for traditional infrastructure work, like roads and bridges, but would also set aside funds for 5G wireless infrastructure and rural broadband, the people said.

The draft plan is emerging as lawmakers from both parties and Trump debate the timing and scope of more stimulus for a U.S. economy plunged into recession by nationwide lockdowns needed to halt the spread of coronavirus.

It’s unclear how long the administration’s draft would authorize spending or how it would pay for the programs.

The current surface transportation authorization – the FAST Act – expires at the end of September furthering the need for urgency on the matter.

Related posts