Sen. Barrasso, left, and Sen. Carper.

By Dean Franks, senior vice president, congressional relations, ARTBA

The bipartisan leaders of the Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee traded priorities for an upcoming surface reauthorization bill during a July 10 hearing.  Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) was the first to reference that users of the system should be the ones to pay for the infrastructure investments and particularly mentioned the need for electric vehicle drivers to begin paying into the system. Ranking Democrat Tom Carper (D-Del.) said, “I have always believed that a long-term focus on national needs must include identifying new source of sustainable, user-fee base revenues to support investments in transportation.”

Barrasso also publicly announced for the first time that the legislation the committee is drafting would be a five-year bill. The two committee leaders said they want to pass a bipartisan bill out of committee before the Senate adjourns for the annual summer work period. An Aug. 1 target has been set for consideration in the committee.

This will be the first action on a surface transportation law since enactment of the FAST Act in December of 2015. That law, which expires in September 2020, required $70 billion in General Fund transfers and unrelated offsets to help pay for the bill.

The EPW committee has jurisdiction over the highway policy provisions of a surface transportation authorization process, while three other committees will need to weigh in on public transportation, trucking, rail and tax issues.

ARTBA will continue working with Barrasso, Carper and all committee members to get a bill with increased and growing investment levels approved out of committee as soon as possible.