By Lauren Schapker, vice president of legislative affairs, ARTBA

U.S. House members Feb. 27 questioned U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao about the administration’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget, surface transportation reauthorization proposal, and related programs and projects. They received few details from the agency head.

Chao did tell the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Transportation, House & Urban Development (THUD) that her agency’s reauthorization proposal is on the way, but could not be discussed because it is under review by the administration.

Subcommittee Chairman David Price (D-Ga.) emphasized the need for a substantive conversation between the White House and Congress about raising revenues for the Highway Trust Fund. Subcommittee Ranking Member Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) said that until “something else comes along,” the THUD appropriations bill continues to be the infrastructure bill, a reference to the additional $15 billion in surface transportation and airport funding provided by Congress over the last three years beyond FAST Act-authorized levels.

Other subcommittee members asked about specific programs or projects, such as the New York-New Jersey Gateway Project and the Capital Investment Grants (CIG) program. On Gateway, Chao said rehabilitation of the existing tunnels would begin in the near-term, rather than waiting until construction of new tunnels is complete. She reiterated support for CIG, noting the budget proposal includes the program’s largest request ever, despite concerns from Congress that grants are not being awarded in a timely manner.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) have each indicated their desire to pass all 12 appropriations bills out of their respective chambers by this summer.

The full THUD hearing to can viewed at this webcast recording.

PHOTO: File image of Secretary Chao.