House Democrats Release “Moving Forward Framework”

House Democrats Release “Moving Forward Framework”

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House Democrats today released a framework for infrastructure investments (“Moving Forward Framework”) that includes transportation reauthorization, broadband, aviation, wastewater, and drinking water. The total investment contained in the package is $760 billion over five years (see the chart at the bottom for a breakdown of how these funds are distributed by program).

Regarding transportation reauthorization, today’s framework does not contain much detail but provides broad outlines of what to expect when the full reauthorization bill is released in a couple of months. Thematically, the framework focuses on state of good repair, fossil fuels and carbon emissions, and resilience. There is also a lengthy session that contemplates how the legislation will revamp many of the existing core formula programs (see pages 3-4 of the framework document). It is within this section that the most relevant changes may occur for transportation planning and project implementation.

A couple of examples:

  • Expands Local Control – Expands decision-making over Federal funds to other levels of government and provides additional authority to metropolitan planning organizations that demonstrate the capacity to administer Federal funds. Amends the suballocation process to ensure mid-sized communities receive a portion of program funds.
  • Modernizes Project Planning – Requires States and MPOs to prioritize transportation access and to consider during the planning process all system users, job access, connections to housing, and creation of transportation options in underserved communities.


Other relevant sections of interest to regions focus on greater investment in regionally-significant projects; alternative fuel infrastructure; and transit and rail investments. Outside of the transportation section, there is focus on broadband deployment, increased water resources projects through the Army Corps of Engineers, clean water resources, and brownfields.

Whether this will move as one large package or separated into pieces is unclear at this time, as is the timing and, perhaps most importantly, funding. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) indicated today that action will not happen in the very near term, and T&I committee staff yesterday indicated it will be at least March before we see a reauthorization bill draft released. Though this was released as a Democrat-only proposal, it is hopeful to note that T&I Committee Republicans issued a release indicating their willingness to work together on getting a package done.

Resources:

Total Investment Levels

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
Highway and Transit Programs $434B

  • Transformative Highway Investments $319B
  • Transformative Transit Investments $105B
  • Transformative Safety Investments $10B

Rail Transportation $55B

  • Transformative Rail Investments $55B

Airport and Airway Infrastructure $30B

  • Transformative Airport Investments $30B

Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund $19.7B
Water Resources $10B

  • Transformative Water Resources Investments $7B
  • Transformative Inland Waterways Investments $3B

Clean Water $50.5B

  • Transformative Water Investments $47.1B
    • Clean Water State Revolving Funding Investment $40B
    • State Clean Water Compliance Assistance $1.5B
    • Clean Water Act Grant Program Investments $5.6B
  • Transformative Regional Investments $3.4B

Transportation and Infrastructure and Energy and Commerce Committees (joint jurisdiction)

Brownfields Restoration and Reinvestment $2.7B

Energy and Commerce Committee

Clean Drinking Water and Clean Energy $59.7B

  • Transformative Drinking Water Investments $25.4B
  • Transformative Clean Energy Investments $34.3B

Broadband and Communications $98B

  • Transformative Broadband Investments $86B
  • Public Safety Communications Investments $12B

Questions? Contact Erich Zimmermann at erich@narc.org or 202.618.5697.

What’s Next for the Senate EPW Committee’s Highway Title?

The push for transportation reauthorization has begun, with
approximately 15 months before the current authorizing legislation – the FAST
Act – expires. This early start to the process can be ascribed to two systemic
challenges Congress faces in getting a final bill across the finish line.
First, the transportation reauthorization is a complex piece of legislation, under
the jurisdiction of four committees in the Senate and two in the House. It is
also a large program with a fading source of revenue, which requires Congress
to find a funding patch every time it enacts a new, long-term authorization.
This time around, the gap between anticipated Highway Trust Fund revenues and
desired spending levels is expected to be $100 billion or more, which needs to
be transferred from general Treasury funds and somehow offset with new revenues
or spending cuts.

The second systemic challenge Congress faces is a simple one
of timing: voting for the 2020 Presidential election will take place just over
a month after the current authorization expires. The politicking, of course,
will begin much sooner. Neither side will want to hand the other a substantial
victory too close to an election, and both sides could be wary of spending
hundreds of billions of dollars (to say nothing of raising the federal fuels
tax), unsure of how it will swing voters.

That brings us to the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee’s proposed highway title (transit, rail, and other items will be added later by other committees), which is a five-year, $287 billion bill. As is often the case with transportation bills, there is much for both sides to point to as advancing their policy agendas. This is part of the reason it passed out of committee on a unanimous 21-0 vote. On one side is project permit streamlining, increases to the National Highway Performance Program, and rural-focused provisions regarding safety and bridge repair. On the other side is a new climate title, safety and funding provisions for bicycle and pedestrian projects, and a new program to combat congestion in the nation’s largest urban areas.

The EPW bill maintains the existing structure of the federal
transportation program. This is, overall, a positive. There are only minor
changes made to the law as it applies to planning and the Congestion Mitigation
and Air Quality (CMAQ) program. One change we had advocated for was an increase
in the portion of the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBGP) that
is provided directly to local areas through their metropolitan planning
organizations (MPOs). Though this share will remain at 55%, we were pleased at
changes to the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), including an increased
share for local projects (57.5%, up from 50% presently) and broader eligibility
to include MPOs in urbanized areas under 200,000 population. In addition, two
new programs created in the EPW bill for resilience and safety require
suballocation of funds and create incentives that would allow a portion of
those funds to be used as STBGP funds if certain criteria are met.

A notable aspect of the EPW bill is the sheer number of new
programs that it would create, covering a broad range of topics including wildlife
crossings, bridge investments, safety, charging and alternatives fuel
infrastructure, carbon reduction, congestion relief, resilience, and more. This
is an interesting shift in approach, with the current FAST Act bill sticking
mainly to the approach initiated in the MAP-21 authorization which consolidated
the program from more than 100 programs to just a handful.

If you want to learn more about what the bill contains, NARC
has prepared a number of resources that will be helpful, including a section-by-section
analysis
and a broader
overview
of some of the most relevant portions. In addition, NARC will be
hosting a webinar on Tuesday, August 13 at 3:00 PM ET and you can register
here
.

As one Senator said during the committee discussion, the committee passage of this bill is the “end of the beginning” of the process. We’ll still need to see what the Senate Commerce and Banking committees develop for their portions of the bill, and that combined package will need to make it through the full Senate. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is also likely to develop its own proposal, though it is unclear when it might release something. And the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees have perhaps the toughest job of all, which is coming up with a way to pay for the whole package.

AASHTO’s Executive Director Announces Retirement

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ (AASHTO) Executive Director Frederick G. “Bud” Wright announced last week that he plans to retire at the end of 2018. Wright was appointed Executive Director in November 2012 and previously served as executive director for the Federal Highway Administration from 2001 to 2008. He also led AASHTO through a new strategic plan development process that expanded the organization’s focus to include all modes.

It’s Infrastructure Week!

This week, hundreds of elected, nonprofit, business, and community leaders will host events to advocate one message: “Americans are waiting. The future won’t. It’s #TimeToBuild.” Every day of Infrastructure Week, local, state, and national stakeholders will highlight the projects, technologies, and policies that are necessary to improve our country’s infrastructure. To participate in this week-long event, check out the Infrastructure Week website to see the latest calendar of official events and download graphics you can use to promote the cause on social media. Follow the official conversation on Twitter using #TimeToBuild.

AACOG to Host CarFit Event

This week, Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) will co-host a CarFit event with many stakeholders in their region. CarFit is a free, interactive, and educational program that uses trained volunteers to assess the safest “fit” for older drivers and their vehicles. Simple improvements that help improve driver safety and community mobility include educating the public on proper mirror positioning, foot positioning between pedals and brakes, and the distance between the driver and steering wheel. See CarFit’s website to learn about bringing their events and services to your community.

National Dialogue on Highway Automation

FHWA launched a National Dialogue on Highway Automation. The program includes five upcoming workshops hosted around the country concerning different areas of highway autonomation. FHWA plans to include a broader range of stakeholders to inform FHWA’s role in automation and national research, policy, and programs to aid in the development of the technology. The Launch Workshop will be in Detroit, Michigan on June 7. The first issue workshop, which will focus on policy and planning, will be in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania June 26-27.

 

MAPC Selects LimeBike, Spin for 15-Community Regional Bike Share System

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) in Boston, MA recently incorporated a dockless bike share system in their region. MAPC selected LimeBike and Spin as the two vendors that would provide users the ability to pick up and drop off a bike virtually anywhere in their fifteen participating communities. MAPC Executive Director Marc Draisen said, “The new system will incorporate station-less, smart bike technology, and will also feature some pedal-assist electric bicycles, or ‘e-bikes,’ to make cycling uphill and into headwinds less challenging. And, the system will be launched at no cost to the participating cities and towns.”

Long-Term FAA Reauthorization Bill Introduced in House

Last Friday, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introduced the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2018, which would reauthorize FAA through FY 2023. Attached to the bill are provisions of the bipartisan Disaster Recovery Reform Act previously passed by the House that makes changes to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) policy. The FAA bill does not include FAA air traffic control spinoff provisions. As of yesterday, 40 amendments had been filed. The House is expected to vote on the bill next week. The current reauthorization deadline is September 30, 2018.

Washington Metro May Finally Fix its 40-Year-Old Funding Problem

Since it was founded in 1976, the Washington Metro in the D.C. area has had trouble finding a dedicated funding stream that it could rely on for long-term planning. The organization said that it needs another $500 million of reliable funding per year to fix its aging and failing infrastructure. It appears that lawmakers from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia have come closer to earmarking dedicated funds for the transit agency, with each setting their own funding goals and deciding how their jurisdiction would meet it. Within the last few weeks, Virginia lawmakers approved $154 million per year for Metro, Maryland lawmakers set the goal of $167 million per year, and D.C. lawmakers proposed $178.5 million per year.

Will They or Won’t They?

Despite the administration’s optimism that Congress can vote on an infrastructure package before the election in November, there are hints that indicate otherwise. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), a key figure in determining whether we see legislation this year, delivered a recent speech in which he indicated that Congress is more likely to pass an “infrastructure package” as a series of smaller bills, including the must-pass FAA Reauthorization and Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). This is not a surprising revelation. There were early indications signaling that Congress could go this way (e.g. calling a series of work otherwise scheduled an infrastructure package), but this was the first time this strategy was publicly acknowledged by congressional leadership.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), who has recently pushed hard for an infrastructure package and an increase in the federal gas tax, acknowledges that a package that garners enough bipartisan support to secure passage is unlikely prior to the election. He believes something can happen in the “lame duck” period after the election, but there are reasons to doubt this outcome as well. Shuster also described the administration’s proposal to pay for a broader infrastructure package with cuts in funding for transit, rail, and TIGER grants as “smoke and mirrors.”

Chairman John Thune (R-SD) sent a similar message concerning the administration’s infrastructure proposal during a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing yesterday attended by five cabinet secretaries (Transportation, Commerce, Labor, Agriculture, and Energy). Thune stressed the overwhelming need for a “significant source of revenue” to support their push for a $200 billion investment, a sentiment echoed by several committee senators. The administration would not take a side on the pay-for question, placing everything on the table but not pushing for a specific solution.