By Ben Husch
With the summer construction season set to begin, congressional transportation leaders recently made two announcements regarding the nation’s transportation infrastructure.
First, on May 12, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) unveiled its bipartisan MAP-21 Reauthorization Act (S. 2322). The bill would:
- Reauthorize many of the core programs within MAP-21 as well as gradually increase the funding from $38.4 billion in FY 2015 to $42.59 billion by FY 2020.
- Authorize $400 million per year for a competitive grant program to fund projects of regional and national significance (similar to the current TIGER program)
- Create the American Transportation Awards Program, which would authorize $125 million per year to reward states that display achievement in project delivery.
- Re-authorize the popular TIFIA program at its current funding level of $1 billion and allow funds to be used to capitalize state infrastructure banks.
- Establish funding, $400 million in 2016 and $2 billion by 2020, for a national freight program.
- However, unlike the administration’s bill (see below), the Senate bill does include provisions to fully fund a six-year reauthorization, which CBO has estimated faces a $100 billion shortfall. While the EPW Committee will mark up the legislation later this week (May 15), titles on transit (Banking Committee), highway safety (Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee) and the funding title (Finance Committee) are still in development.
On April 29, the U.S. Department of Transportation also formally unveiled the GROW AMERICA Act as its proposal to re-reauthorize federal surface transportation programs. The bill would:
- Provide $302 billion over four years, which would mark a significant increase from current surface transportation funding.
- To fully fund such increases, the bill would allocate $150 billion from “pro-growth tax reform.”
- Two provisions worth noting are raising the cap on Private Activity Bonds to $19 billion and allowing states to raise additional revenue to maintain their highway systems by removing current restrictions on interstate tolling, subject to the approval of the secretary.
However, separate from the reauthorization conversation is the immediate issue of the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund. The Highway Trust Fund is currently forecast to become insolvent later this summer and will result in delayed payments to states, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation unless additional action is taken.
Second, on May 9, congressional transportation leaders announced that they had reached a conference agreement between the House and Senate on a final version of the Water Resources and Reform Development Act, although full legislative text has not yet been released. The bill had been in conference between the two chambers since October 2013. NCSL met with House and Senate staff to highlight’s NCSL’s position spending from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) and on a potential water infrastructure financing title.
NCSL will continue to work to keep NCSL members informed and involved as these transportation infrastructure issues continues to move forward. To that end, NCSL’s Natural Resources and Infrastructure (NRI) Committee has put together a MAP-21 Working Group. If you are a state legislator or legislative staff member interested in joining the working group, please contact NCSL’s Ben Husch.
Ben Husch is committee director for the State-Federal Relations Division in the Washington, D.C., office.