Senate Committee Passes Surface Transportation Bill

Transportation lobbyistsRecently, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee adopted 18-0,  the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or MAP-21, bill (S. 1813). The transportation bill now moves to the Senate floor where it faces much uncertainty as Committee members were unable to reach a consensus on a number of amendments, some of which are likely to be offered on the floor.  In addition, S. 1813 needs additional funding through offsets totaling $12 billion, the gap between current Highway Trust Fund tax revenues and the bills authorized spending level.

Max_Baucus_D-MTThe Environment and Public Works Committee has received assurances from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) that appropriate funding sources will be found.

Specifically, S. 1813 is a two-year reauthorization bill that includes:

  • A consolidation of the number of Federal programs from about 90 programs down to less than 30,
  • Acceleration of transportation projects,
  • Creation of a new title called “America Fast Forward,” which strengthens the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Program (TIFIA) program to leverage federal dollars further than they have been stretched before,
  • Consolidation of certain programs into a focused freight program to improve the movement of goods,

The number of core highway programs has been reduced and include:

  • National Highway Performance: consolidates existing programs (the Interstate Maintenance, National Highway System, and Highway Bridge programs) to create a single new program, which will provide increased flexibility, while guiding state and local investments to maintain and improve the conditions and performance of the National Highway System (NHS) – $20.6 billion,
  • Transportation Mobility: replaces the current Surface Transportation Program, but retains the same structure, goals and flexibility to allow states and metropolitan areas to invest in the projects that fit their unique needs and priorities – $10.4 billion,
  • National Freight Network: consolidates existing programs into a new focused freight program that provides funds to the states by formula for projects to improve regional and national freight movements on highways, including freight intermodal connectors – $2.1 billion,
  • Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement: improves the existing CMAQ program by including particulate matter as one of the pollutants addressed, and by requiring a performance plan in large metropolitan areas to ensure that CMAQ funds are being used to improve air quality and congestion in those regions – $3.3 billion,
  • Highway Safety Improvement: increases the amount of funding for states to develop and implement a safety plan that identifies highway safety programs and a strategy to address them – $2.5 billion,
  • Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Program (TIFIA): modifies the TIFIA program by increasing funding for the program to $1 billion per year, by increasing the maximum share of project costs from 33 percent to 49 percent, by allowing TIFIA to be used to support a related set of projects, and by setting aside funding for projects in rural areas at more favorable terms – $2 billion.

The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee continue working on a six-year transportation bill.  Similar to the Senate Committee, members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee are facing funding challenges for their proposed six-year bill.  House Leaders are indicating that a possible funding mechanism would be expanding oil and gas drilling and using those additional royalties to fund the Highway bill.  The House bill could vote on a Highway bill as early as two weeks.

Cansler Consulting is an experienced lobbying firm in budgeting, agriculture, rural healthcare, and energy policies and through our Congressional relationships we can help you influence the policy makers on Capitol Hill. You can contact us at [email protected] or at (202) 220-3150.

Tim Cansler