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It’s been a whirlwind week in Washington, D.C. for transportation as the House of Representatives begins to advance their surface transportation reauthorization bill, with the back-drop of a March 31st deadline before another short-term extension is required.


The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unveiled the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act (H.R. 7) on Tuesday at a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol Building. The bill would reauthorize surface transportation programs for five years at $260 billion, maintaining current funding levels. The reforms included would consolidate nearly 70 duplicative programs, expedite project delivery, create new performance measures, and enhance the TIFIA grant program. Several committees have spent the remainder of the week getting down to the nitty-gritty details of the bill, as controversial provisions have emerged.


Ways and Means Committee Puts Guaranteed Transit Funding in Jeopardy 


The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee passed legislation to divert $25 billion in dedicated fuels tax revenues from the Mass Transit Account as part of the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012 (H.R. 7). This means that transit would be forced to compete for general funds each year to receive any federal funding. Funds in the Highway Trust Fund would be strictly used for highways, while mass transit will rely on an unreliable general fund as a revenue source. According to the American Public Transportation Association, this change represents nearly 50 percent of the federal investment in public transit authorized by the House surface transportation bill. 


ASCE believes that transit is a critical component of a comprehensive transportation network, and has long supported the principle that 20 percent of the gas tax revenues that have been put in place since 1982 be allocated to a dedicated mass transit account.  The new House provision represents a major change to surface transportation funding mechanisms. ASCE submitted a letter yesterday to the Ways and Means Committee opposing the provision, and joined a coalition including the Chamber of Commerce, the National League of Cities, the US Conference of Mayors, and Transportation for America in signing a separate coalition letter voicing similar concerns. The Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to mark up the revenue package today.


Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Moves Transportation Reauthorization Forward 


The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held an 18-hour marathon markup of the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act (H.R. 7), which reauthorizes the nation’s surface transportation programs and would provide $260 billion in funding over five years.  The session started Thursday at 9 a.m. and finished Friday just before 2:50 a.m., featuring debate on approximately 100 amendments including roll call votes on many.  Highlights include:


  • PASSED  - An amendment on roadway safety infrastructure improvements - passed; and
  • PASSED  - An amendment that would have let states increase the interstate truck weight and size limits was struck down but in its place was included a 3-year study on how roads, bridges and public safety would be affected by these changes.
  • WITHDRAWN - An amendment to prevent the USDOT from incorporating industry-developed standards if they haven’t been made public and free of charge on the internet.
H.R. 7 was approved by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee with a vote of 29 – 24. With this vote, the approval of the House Resources Committee on the energy-related portions of the legislation this Wednesday, and the House Ways and Means Committee approval of the revenue title today, the bill now goes to the House floor the week of February 13th.
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