As we reported in this week’s “3 Minutes on Monday” special report and in an article in ACPA TODAY last week, the House T&I Committee Majority released H.R. 7095, the five-year, $495 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill called the “Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America Act” or the “INVEST in America Act.”

Let’s take a closer look at the bill, as well as what steps lie ahead in the process of securing a surface transportation reauthorization bill. Click here to view the bill and here to view a section-by-section summary. Leif Wathne provided these insights:

  • The bill provides $319 billion in highway funding, or roughly a 42% increase over current spending levels, although there are no- pay-fors identified in the bill.
  • The INVEST Act is based on the “Moving America and the Environment Forward,” framework introduced by T&I Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and two other influential House Chairs in January. Click here to see our brief summary of that framework published last January.
  • The major themes of the bill are state of good repair, safety, climate mitigation and resiliency.
  • The highway-relevant portion of the bill is divided into two sections, “Division A,” essentially a one-year extension of the current highway bill through FY 2021 with an additional $14.7 billion in DOT funding, and 100% federal cost share, and “Division B” covering the remaining four years of the bill with significant program changes.
  • Of some concern to our industry is a “fix it first” provision, which requires DOTs to focus on maintaining the system in a state of good repair rather than adding new highway capacity, unless they can meet a series of requirements. There are a number of other program-changes of interest to our industry, including:
    • Bridge Program: Requires States to spend 20 percent of their NHPP and Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBGP) dollars on bridge repair and rehabilitation projects, amounting to $28 billion between FY 2022-2025.
    • Climate Change: Requires USDOT to establish a new greenhouse gas emissions performance measure based on carbon emissions per capita on all public roads. The bill also creates a new formula program ($8.4 billion for FY 2022-2025) to reduce carbon emissions across a wide range of eligible projects.
    • Resilience: Creates a new formula program to fund resilience and emergency evacuation needs. Requires states and MPOs to develop an infrastructure vulnerability assessment to guide investments under the program.
    • Formula Study: Calls for a study by FHWA to consider modernizing highway formulas and factors.
    • Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP): Reestablishes a state’s ability to flex up to 10% of their HSIP funds to non-infrastructure safety improvements. Focuses on high-risk rural roads and expands eligibility for the Safe Routes to School program.
    • Freight: Removes the National Highway Freight Program cap on multimodal projects and allows states to designate additional rural and urban freight corridors and increases States power to expend funds across the National Highway Freight Network.
    • Tolling: Reestablishes the requirement that FHWA enter into a toll agreement before allowing tolling on a Federal-aid highway and creates new requirements for tolling and congestion pricing implementation.
    • Research and Innovation: Focuses on Intelligent Transportation Systems Program and “smart infrastructure” investment in localities similar to USDOT’s SmartCities program. Also establishes a new multimodal freight transportation research program and a new Highly Automated Vehicle and Mobility Innovation Clearinghouse.
    • Vehicle-Miles Traveled Fee Pilot: Increases funding for state pilot programs and establishes a national program.
    • Projects of National and Regional Significance: Provides more than $9 billion for large highway, transit, and freight projects that cannot be funded through annual apportionments or other discretionary sources.
  • We’re particularly excited to report that the $12 million Accelerated Implementation and Deployment of Pavement Technology (AID-PT) program is included in the bill, with some additional language added related to greenhouse gas emissions. ACPA originally led and successfully championed this important pavement technology deployment program, first in MAP-21 and then in the FAST Act. We’re excited about the prospect of building upon the successes of those past programs, with the CP Tech Center’s continued outstanding contributions.

Although we are encouraged by the committee’s release of this reauthorization proposal, it is worth noting that Democrats did not work with their Republican counterparts in crafting it, something that may hamper bipartisan efforts to get highway authorization passed by the end of September when the current authorization expires.

It is our hope however, that a more bipartisan process will emerge – either as the committee moves toward Markup in the coming weeks, or when (or if)  the bill ultimately goes to conference with the Senate EPW-passed reauthorization proposal from last summer (the ATIA Act, which we reported on in ACPA TODAY).

The White House is expected to announce the “Deliver Act,” the Administration’s proposed transportation reauthorization package in the coming days.  This is expected to be a 10 year roughly $1 trillion dollar measure with approximately $810 billion for surface transportation. In addition, House T&I Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) is working on their own version of a reauthorization proposal, much in line with the framework he released last February.

Although there are many steps required to bring the disparate and complimentary legislative packages together, we are encouraged that there is considerable activity in Washington this summer (both in Congress and in the Administration) on surface transportation legislation. ACPA will continue to monitor the various funding and programmatic changes proposed thus far, and will engage with elected officials as appropriate, based on how they impact contractors and the industry overall, as well as our agency customers.

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