House Passes Bipartisan, Long-Term Transportation Legislation
Today, the United States House of Representatives passed the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015 (STRR), a bipartisan, six year bill to begin to repair and rebuild our crumbling roads, bridges, and transit systems. Ranking Member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) was the lead Democratic co-sponsor and negotiated the policy details over several months with Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) to produce an overwhelmingly bipartisan final bill. Following is DeFazio’s statement:
“I thought this day might never come. For too long, we have punted by passing short-term extension after short-term extension, leaving our state and local governments in limbo and freezing critical projects. I am very pleased, that after months of hard work and negotiation, the House finally passed this bipartisan, compromise bill.
“This legislation isn’t perfect. Unfortunately, it doesn’t provide the level of investment needed to repair or rebuild our aging 1950s-era system of roads, bridges, and public transit systems. It does, however, include a critical provision that would allow for automatic adjustments and increased infrastructure investment if more money flows into the Highway Trust Fund than currently projected. If Congress does the right thing and comes up with more revenue to deposit into the Highway Trust Fund, this mechanism will invest those funds in our surface transportation infrastructure, without any additional action by Congress. This is a step in the right direction. I commend Chairman Shuster for this bill and look forward to the upcoming conference with the Senate,”
The House passed the STRR Act 363-64 after three days of debate and consideration of over 100 amendments. The Senate passed a similar bill in July. Over the next few weeks the House and Senate will negotiate a final long-term transportation bill that can be approved by both Houses and signed into law by the President.
The STRR Act KEY POINTS
- Provides Long-term Funding: Provides $325 billion, funded from the Highway Trust Fund, over six years for highway, transit, and highway safety programs. The length of the bill is an acknowledgment that short-term solutions are not helpful, as they cause States and public transit authorities to delay or cancel projects, breed uncertainty in the Federal program, and end up increasing the costs of project delivery.
- Bypasses Congress to Increase Transportation Investments: This legislation isn’t perfect. Unfortunately, it doesn’t provide the level of investment needed to repair or rebuild our aging 1950s-era system of roads, bridges, and public transit systems. It does, however, include a critical provision that would allow for automatic adjustments and increased infrastructure investment if more money flows into the Highway Trust Fund than currently projected. If Congress does the right thing and comes up with more revenue to deposit into the Highway Trust Fund, this mechanism will invest those funds in our surface transportation infrastructure, without any additional action by Congress. This is a step in the right direction.
- Boosts Commerce and Economic Competitiveness: To be competitive in the world economy, we need to be able to get our goods and people from point A to point B in the quickest, most efficient way possible. This legislation creates a program for major freight and highway projects of national or regional importance, which will boost commerce and improve the movement of goods. For the first time, the Federal Government will provide dedicated funding specifically for freight megaprojects, including up to $500 million in freight rail projects.
- Creates American Jobs: This legislation increases American manufacturing jobs by strengthening Buy America requirements and raising the domestic content threshold of transit buses and rail cars from 60 percent to 70 percent. If we are investing American dollars, we should make sure those dollars are supporting American manufacturing and creating jobs here at home—not in China.
- Promotes Safety: Boosts funding for railway-highway grade crossings, motor carrier safety grants, and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration grants; ensures higher standards for transit safety; protects bus driver safety; and encourages states to provide mental health and substance abuse treatment to DUI offenders.
- Strengthens Emergency Response: Provides increased funding for States to plan for hazardous materials transportation accidents and train emergency responders, and requires railroads transporting flammable liquids to maintain comprehensive oil spill response plans which include procedures and resources for responding to a worst-case discharge.
- Reduces Workforce Skills Gap: Authorizes grants to help transit agencies overcome workforce skill gaps by recruiting and training transit workers who are from underrepresented populations, including minorities, women, individuals with disabilities, veterans, and low-income workers. These grants also provide better frontline workforce training on safety, security, emergency preparedness, and communication during emergencies.
- Promotes 21st Century Vehicles: Requires U.S. DOT to designate national electric vehicle charging, hydrogen, and natural gas fueling corridors to identify the near and long-term investments needed to support vehicles of the future.
- Explores Future Funding Mechanisms: Provides $115 million to enable States to test and experiment with innovative ways to fund needed infrastructure improvements, including Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) mechanisms, which are critical to identifying a sustainable, long-term revenue stream for surface transportation investment.