Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.) this afternoon released the details of a six-year surface transportation program reauthorization proposal, “The Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act,” that was the product of bipartisan negotiations among the four Senate committees with jurisdiction over the federal highway, transit, and safety programs. The measure would guarantee highway and public transportation investment for three years and would provide states with six years of highway and transit contract authority to facilitate long-term planning.

The construct of three years of funding and six years of authorization reflects the fact that senators were able to develop a bipartisan agreement to generate $47 billion in new Highway Trust Fund (HTF) revenues through a variety of tax code savings and other reforms unrelated to highway system use—although some money is raised from redirecting customs user fees and an aviation security fee to the trust fund. These additional resources could only support increased highway and public transportation investment for three years. As a result, Congress would be required to address another HTF revenue shortfall after the first three years of the bill.

The $47 billion in additional revenue also forced Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Ranking Member Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to slightly scale back the highway investment levels approved unanimously by their committee last month.

The core highway investment level from the initial EPW product was reduced by: $675 million in FY 2016; $525 million in FY 2017; $375 million in FY 2018; and $125 million in each subsequent year.

Despite these reductions, the Senate DRIVE Act would still increase highway investment to over $48 billion by FY 2021. Most of the reductions from the initial EPW proposal come from the TIFIA program (which was already cut by $325 million from the current level) and the new freight program. The table below contrasts the DRIVE Act, with the EPW-approved bill and current investment levels. The policy reforms in the EPW proposal, however, appear to be largely retained in the DRIVE Act.

 

FY 2015 FY 2016 FY 2017 FY 2018 FY 2019 FY 2020 FY 2021
DRIVE Act Guaranteed Highway Investment $40.3 B $42.4 B $43.5 B $44.6 B $45.9 B $47.0 B $48.1 B
Initial EPW Guaranteed Highway Investment $40.3 B $43.1 B $44.0 B $45.0 B $46.0 B $47.2 B $48.3 B
DRIVE Act Freight Program n/a $1.5 B $1.75 B $2.0 B $2.3 B $2.4 B $2.5 B
Initial EPW Freight Program n/a $2.0 B $2.1 B $2.2 B $2.3 B $2.4 B $2.5 B
DRIVE Act TIFIA $1.0 B $500 M $500 M $500 M $500 M $500 M $500 M
Initial EPW TIFIA $1.0 B $675 M $675 M $675 M $675 M $675 M $675 M

 

ARTBA is still reviewing the more than 1,000 page DRIVE Act and will provide subsequent updates on the measure’s proposed public transportation investment levels and policy initiatives. A summary of the DRIVE Act distributed by Leader McConnell, however, reports the measure increases transit investment by $2 billion above the levels established in the 2012 surface transportation law, MAP-21.

If the Senate is successful in passing the DRIVE Act, it is unclear how it would be reconciled with the five-month program extension approved by the House of Representatives last week.