House T&I Advances Surface Transportation Reauthorizationeditor@aashto.org June 19, 2020 0 COMMENTS
After a marathon two-day markup session, the House of Representatives Transportation & Infrastructure Committee passed its $494 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill on June 18 by a party-line vote of 35 to 25.
Altogether 34 Republican amendments and 23 Democratic amendments to the bill – entitled Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation or the INVEST in America Act – were adopted.
“For far too long, Congress has taken a pass on trying to solve the toughest problems plaguing our surface transportation system, allowing it to limp along and fall farther and farther behind the rest of the world,” noted Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., the committee’s chair, in a statement following the bill’s passage.
“The time is now to fix our crumbling infrastructure, cut carbon pollution from the transportation sector, and create millions of good-paying jobs in urban, suburban and rural communities,” he said
Yet Ranking Member Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., disagreed with what he called the “one-sided” construction of the bill.
“Throughout this entire process, Republicans were ready to bring our priorities to the table, discuss them in the context of the majority’s priorities, and look for common ground,” he said in a statement.
“And surely there was common ground to be found, including on resiliency and climate issues,” Rep. Graves added. “Believe it or not, Republicans don’t automatically oppose addressing these issues. But many of us do oppose the way this particular bill goes about it – through overreaching and heavy-handed mandates.”
Republicans went so far as to introduce alternative surface transportation reauthorization legislation — the Surface Transportation Advanced through Reform, Technology, & Efficient Review or STARTER Act – and attempted but failed to add it as an amendment to the INVEST in American Act.
Jim Tymon, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, expressed disappointment that the T&I committee mark-up did not produce a bill that has bipartisan support.
“Last summer the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee proved that Democrats and Republicans can work together to write a bipartisan transportation bill,” he said in a statement.
“While we appreciate that the INVEST in America Act recognizes the challenging financial situation facing state departments of transportation due to the nation’s COVID-19 response, the bill does not address many priorities identified by state DOTs and in some cases will make it more difficult for states to address critical transportation challenges,” Tymon added.
He pointed out that the STARTER Act introduced by Rep. Graves during the markup “focuses on formula funding programs, streamlining project delivery and ensuring state flexibility – all principles adopted by the AASHTO Board of Directors.”
Tymon also hoped that as the INVEST in America Act moves to the House floor, Rep. DeFazio and other members of the House T&I Committee can find “bipartisan policy consensus” in favor of increased funding for all surface transportation programs; maintaining the flexibility and maximizing the funding of current core formula programs; addressing climate change and resiliency; improving project delivery; and, meeting the infrastructure needs of rural and urban areas.