Yesterday House T&I Chairman Shuster said that it will be difficult to implement the president’s infrastructure plan this year. Shuster hopes to pass a bill before August recess, but Congress may need to vote after the election in a lame-duck session. His comments follow doubts expressed by both Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and John Thune about Congress’ ability to pass a bill this year. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has focused her remarks on the efforts to eliminate regulations and streamline permitting, and has not spoken to a timeline for implementing the administrations’ full proposal.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I) Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) announced today that he will end efforts to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system. Shuster, who is not running for reelection, acknowledged that the reform principles did not reach the level of support needed to pass Congress and that he will work with Senator John Thune (R-SD) to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Senator Thune has said that FAA programs will likely be extended through the summer. Current FAA authorization runs through March 31.
Washington, D.C. (February 12, 2018): The White House today released its long-anticipated “infrastructure package” that contains funding for a wide array of infrastructure projects with significant reliance on contributions from state, local, and private sources to achieve its overall investment goals.
The outline proposes a total federal funding level of $200 billion. By requiring significant local and state shares and encouraging private investment through expansion of existing financing mechanisms, the administration projects the resulting total infrastructure investment would be $1.5 trillion. Despite the call from a wide variety of organizations, associations, and others, the bill does not specifically contain any funding to help preserve the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund, which will run short of funding starting sometime in 2020. Nor does the proposal contain a specific offset for the administration’s proposed funding.
The proposed funding is distributed through several new programs:
- $100 billion for the Infrastructure Incentives Program, with funding distributed by USDOT, EPA, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Local and state share of funding would be at least 80%, with additional credit given to projects with a higher non-federal share and from state or local funding sources that were raised most recently.
- $50 billion for the Rural Infrastructure Project, $40 billion of which would be distributed as block grants by formula to states based on total mileage of rural roads and rural population. The remaining $10 billion would fund “rural performance grants” for states that have prepared comprehensive reports of rural infrastructure.
- $20 billion for Transformative Projects Fund to support innovative projects that would otherwise have a hard time attracting private capital. Would support three tracks of projects: demonstration projects (30% federal share), planning (50% federal share), and capital construction (80% federal share).
- $20 billion for Infrastructure Financing Programs, including $14B for existing financing programs (TIFIA, WIFIA, RRIF) and $6B for expansion of PABs.
- $10 billion for Federal Capital Financing Fund, a funding mechanism to address current issues with real property acquisition by federal agencies.
- Establishes the Interior Maintenance Fund, up to $18 billion to pay for capital and maintenance needs of public lands infrastructure. Funding is not included in $200 billion total, because it is drawn from additional revenues from mineral and energy development on federal lands and waters.
- Removing restrictions on tolling existing Interstates.
- Raising the cost threshold for designation of “major project” from $500 million to $1 billion.
- Allowing utility relocation in advance of NEPA review completion.
- Requires use of “value capture” for transit projects under New Starts.
- Applying FAST Act streamlining provisions to rail projects.
- Additional provisions regarding water infrastructure, VA facilities, brownfields rehabilitation, and Superfund cleanup.
- An extensive array of streamlining provisions intended to achieve the administration’s goal of reducing the length of time it takes for federal agencies to review and approve infrastructure projects, with a goal of two years.
NARC Responds To Trump’s Infrastructure Proposal
Washington, D.C. (February 12, 2018) – With today’s release of the Trump administration’s Infrastructure Plan, the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) appreciates the national conversation regarding the important role the federal government plays in supporting the significant investment local governments make in the nation’s infrastructure. The federal government is crucial in the unique federal-state-local partnership that forms the cornerstone of the nation’s infrastructure investments.
“The release of today’s proposal is an important first step in the process of developing a bipartisan proposal that can help bolster local efforts to create and maintain our country’s world-class infrastructure,” said Bob Dallari, NARC President and Seminole County, Florida Commissioner. “We now look to Congress to continue the momentum and craft legislation that can help ensure stable and robust federal spending to support the infrastructure investments local governments across the nation are making.”
NARC has outlined several key points that will help ensure a final infrastructure investment plan that is responsive to local and regional priorities:
- Resolve the funding shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund to ensure financial resources are available to support, at a minimum, existing funding levels beyond expiration of the current FAST Act authorization.
- Increase direct funding for the nation’s infrastructure, with incentives provided for the subset of projects that will generate revenue and therefore are appropriate for private or other financing.
- Ensure a portion of new funding flows directly to local areas via their regional planning organizations, and through existing channels of distribution such as the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBGP).
- Support multimodal investments and ensure that new funding provides flexibility in the types of projects it supports, and explicitly recognize that transit, rail, bike and pedestrian, and other similar projects are important federal priorities. Increased federal funding through existing channels for TIGER, STBGP, New Starts, FASTLANE and Transportation Alternatives will support multimodal investments.
A document was leaked yesterday that contains an outline of what might be contained in a long-promised White House infrastructure proposal. Heavy caveats are required, as we do not know who prepared this document, who leaked it, or whether it reflects the administration’s thinking. When asked about the document, a White House spokesperson declined to comment on a leaked source. She did not, however, indicate the document was fabricated.
The document contains two major sections: “Funding Principles” and “Principles for Infrastructure Improvements.” The document does not contain principles as much as a set of policy ideas and proposed regulatory changes, with varying degrees of detail. The draft outline leaves much to be answered. There is no proposed funding amount, just percentages of the total that would be committed to the proposed programs. Since no funding level is proposed, nothing indicates how the bill would ultimately be paid for.
The changes proposed appear to be separate from the current transportation authorization, which relies mostly on fuel tax revenues to fund projects primarily through discretionary, formula-based programs. The program outlined in the leaked document would do a little of that (for dollars to rural areas), but primarily relies upon grant awards through a competitive process controlled by federal agencies.
The portions described in this document are the most impactful for NARC’s members.