With the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act set to expire on September 30, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee marked up and passed the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act this week. The five-year reauthorization provides $494 billion in direct investments for our nation’s highway, transit, and rail systems in addition to supporting passenger and commercial vehicle safety. Committee members debated the legislation over several days, with over 300 amendments considered before the Committee voted 35-25 to pass the legislation.
At the onset of the markup Republicans offered an alternative reauthorization proposal, the STARTER Act. While quickly voted down by Democrats on the Committee, the legislation would maintain FAST Act programs at current funding levels for an additional five years; establish a new connected vehicle deployment program, a national VMT pilot program, and a highway resilience program; and requires federal agencies to develop a single permitting timetable for environmental review.
One rare glimpse of bipartisanship during the markup occurred when the Committee approved an en bloc amendment package that:
- Requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the National Park Service’s maintenance of federal lands transportation facilities and deferred maintenance of U.S. forest roads;
- Requires the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to provide COVID-19 related support to essential critical infrastructure workers;
- Expresses the sense of Congress that states should use life-cycle cost analysis to evaluate transportation projects;
- Includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to work with the DOT and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in providing a stormwater best practices study; and
- Requires the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issue guidance on the design, construction, maintenance, and repair of evacuation routes.
As the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee was still meeting, the House Ways and Means Committee released a comprehensive framework of policy considerations that will be included in the revenue title to the INVEST in America Act on Thursday. While the framework does include many of ASCE’s financing priorities, including Build America Bonds, advanced refunding, and private activity bonds, the outline falls short of addressing a long-term revenue solution for the Highway Trust Fund.
Finally, while the INVEST in America Act includes many provisions that ASCE supports, we remain concerned that the legislation’s lack of bipartisan support makes Congressional action before the expiration of the FAST Act on September 30 difficult. Therefore, we urge both the House and Senate to work together, in a bipartisan manner, to ensure that surface transportation programs do not expire later this year.