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

House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee Democrats June 3 released a five-year, $494 billion bill that would increase highway and public transportation investment by 42 percent and 72 percent, respectively. 

The plan comes a day before ARTBA Chairman Steve McGough’s scheduled appearance at a Senate Environment & Public Works Committee hearing on the need for that chamber to pass its version of a multi-year transportation bill. ARTBA President and CEO Dave Bauer released a statement about the House bill.

As outlined by House T&I Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), “Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act” includes:

  • $319 billion for highways;
  • $105 billion for public transportation improvements;
  • $60 billion for rail; and
  • $10 billion for National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration programs.

“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the things that hundreds of millions of American families and businesses rely on every single day— is not only badly outdated, in many places it’s downright dangerous and holding our economy back,” DeFazio said. “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. That all changes with the INVEST in America Act.”

The legislation elicited a different response from the committee’s minority.

“Democrats and Republicans alike know the only way to complete a reauthorization is if we work together. For decades, that’s been the proven formula for successfully producing surface transportation laws. Unfortunately, driven by the Speaker’s partisan agenda, Committee Republicans were not involved in the development of this bill,” said T&I Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Highways & Transit Subcommittee Ranking Member Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), and Railroads, Pipelines & Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Ranking Member Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) in a joint statement. 

Key Provisions

Recognizing the impacts of COVID-19 on state and local governments, the INVEST in America Act authorizes a significant increase in funding to continue current programs in FY 2021, with wider policy implementation not occurring until FY 2022.  The pandemic is also driving the provisions that:

  • waive for FY 2021 the traditional ‘state match’ requirement for most FAST Act programs, making all projects 100 percent federal share; and
  • extend flexibility of use of these resources to operations and administrative costs for state departments of transportation.   

Under its Formula Grants section, the measure requires National Highway Performance Program funds to focus on state of good repair and operational improvements to existing facilities before building new highway capacity.

Climate change-related provisions create new formula programs for resilient infrastructure ($6.25 billion for FY 2022-25) and carbon pollution ($8.35 billion for FY 2022-25) projects, and direct the U.S. Department of Transportation to create a new greenhouse gas emissions performance measure. The proposal also: 

  • Dedicates at least $28 billion in “fix-it-first” bridge investments from FY 2022-25;
  • Makes the entire freight formula program multimodal, further opening up highway account dollars to other modes;
  • Turns the current INFRA discretionary freight program into a multi-modal Projects of National and Regional Significance grant program;
  • Creates numerous new discretionary grant programs including funds to build out electric vehicle charging, connecting pedestrian and bicycle networks, and resources for rural, local and Metropolitan Planning Organization projects; and
  • Bolsters public transportation construction through the Capital Investment Grant program ($24 billion over five years), including tighter restrictions on the project approval and selection process by the Federal Transit Administration.   

The INVEST in America Act is scheduled for a June 17 committee vote. Read the full text or the committee summary.