On Monday (July 29), the leaders of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) introduced S. 2302, the “America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act” (ATIA), a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the highway and highway research titles of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) (P.L. 114-94), which expires on September 30, 2020.
The bill authorizes $287 billion of contract authority from the Highway Trust Fund over five years for highway and research programs, representing a 27 percent increase over the FAST Act funding level of $225 billion. The bill distributes 90 percent of the funding to states by formula.
On Tuesday (July 30), the EPW Committee marked up the bill and adopted an amendment in the nature of a substitute (replacing the underlying text of the bill). The Committee reported the bill, as amended, to the Senate by a vote of 21 – 0. To view S. 2302, as amended, please click here. To view the Committee’s bill summary, please click here. To view the Committee’s section-by-section, please click here. In addition, President Trump expressed support for the Committee action in a tweet, which can be viewed here.
The public transportation, rail, finance, and other titles of the surface transportation authorization bill are the jurisdiction of other Senate committees. To date, neither those Senate committees nor the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure or Committee on Ways and Means have scheduled any action on surface transportation authorization legislation (although many of these committees are conducting hearings on these issues).
Highway Trust Fund
ATIA does not include new revenues for the Highway Trust Fund; that is the jurisdiction of the Senate Committee on Finance. The bill does, however, build on the FAST Act program to test the feasibility of an alternative user-based revenue mechanism, such as a vehicle mile travelled (VMT) fee. S. 2302 provides $25 million per year, split evenly between state pilot projects and the national research program, to test alternative revenue mechanisms.
Under current law, public transportation projects are eligible for funding under several highway programs, including the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBG) and the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ). The bill continues significant funding for these programs. In addition, the bill expands the operating assistance eligibility under the CMAQ program for small urbanized and rural areas (areas with a population less than 200,000). APTA staff is working to better understand the impact of this provision on large urbanized areas (areas with a population of 200,000 or more).
S. 2302 also expands the eligibility of transit-oriented development (TOD) under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program to specifically include commercial and residential development near a rail station. TOD funding is limited to no more than 15 percent of total TIFIA funding.
The bill increases funding for Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grants, which primarily fund large highway and bridge projects, by providing $5.5 billion over five years, an increase of $1 billion over the FAST Act. In addition, the bill increases the amount of INFRA funding available for intermodal projects (e.g., freight rail projects) to 30 percent of program funds, or $1.65 billion over five years.
ATIA provides $440 million over five years for the Federal-aid Highway Administration (FHWA) Ferry Boats and Facilities program. The bill also clarifies that ferry maintenance facilities are eligible for funding and authorizes the use of federal funds to procure public transit vehicles under the program if the vehicles are used exclusively as an integral part of an intermodal ferry trip.
Finally, the bill addresses safety at railway-highway grade crossings (23 U.S.C. § 130) by maintaining funding of $245 million per year over the authorization period, and allows the use of the funds for projects to reduce pedestrian fatalities and injuries from trespassing at grade crossings. It also increases the federal share of any project from 90 percent to 100 percent.
ATIA establishes a $4.9 billion formula and competitive grant program to provide funding for improvements to protect infrastructure assets (including public transportation and intercity rail system assets) by making them more resilient against natural disasters and extreme weather events.
The bill also creates a new formula program, the Carbon Reduction Incentive Program, funded at $3 billion over five years to reduce carbon emissions. Eligible activities include public transit projects authorized under 23 U.S.C. § 142; and facilities for pedestrian and bicyclists (including the conversion and use of rail corridors for pedestrian and bike trails). In addition, the bill establishes a competitive grant program funded at $1 billion over five years for states and localities to build and deploy electric vehicle charging, and hydrogen and natural gas fueling infrastructure to be accessible to all drivers of such vehicles.
Lastly, S. 2302 authorizes a new Congestion Relief Program funded at $200 million over five years to help states reduce traffic congestion through multi-modal means, including use of public transportation.
The bill codifies elements of Executive Order (EO) 13807, commonly known as “One Federal Decision”. President Trump issued EO 13807 in August 2017 with the goal of cutting the federal environmental permitting process for infrastructure projects to two years and implementing the FAST Act requirement that there be a lead agency for environmental review for major projects. APTA has supported the Administration’s efforts to streamline project delivery. To view APTA’s letter to President Trump regarding One Federal Decision, please click here.
Planning and Performance Management
ATIA contains a comprehensive section on planning and performance management. Provisions of note include: amending the makeup of metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to include consideration of the “equitable and proportional representation of the population” of the area; allowing the use of social media and other electronic means for stakeholder input to transportation planning; and encouraging states to adopt human capital plans for workforce planning.
The bill also supports data-driven approaches to transportation planning, by creating a Prioritization Process Pilot Program to develop a data-driven prioritization process for the selection of projects for inclusion in a transportation plan, and the establishment of an Accessibility Data Pilot Program to develop data sets to measure the access that the public has to jobs, health and child-care, education, workforce training, affordable housing, etc. as well as connections between modes, including transit and rail services.
The bill also provides funding for activities under the Complete Streets program, to ensure safe and accessible options for multiple modes of transportation, including public transportation.
APTA staff notes that the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs has jurisdiction of the planning and performance management requirements as it applies to public transportation projects and may likely have some changes to these provisions. Historically, the final authorization act includes one consistent set of planning requirements for both highway and transit projects.
EPW Committee Marks Up Bill to Repeal Highway Rescission
The EPW Committee also marked up S. 1992, which amends the FAST Act to repeal a rescission of Federal-aid Highway contract authority. Section 1438 of the FAST Act rescinds approximately $7.6 billion in Federal-aid Highway Program contract authority on July 1, 2020, which will impact all 50 states. This rescission will impact each state differently, but will make significant cuts to highway programs, including those with flexible funds, which can be used for public transportation purposes.
APTA has long-advocated repealing the rescission of the FAST Act. On September 22, 2018, APTA’s Board of Directors adopted a specific recommendation to repeal the FAST Act rescission. To view the Additional Recommendations to APTA’s Finance Principles adopted by the Board, please click here. For the provision specifically addressing the highway rescission, please see page 3.
Senate Committee on Commerce Holds Hearing on Positive Train Control
On Wednesday (July 31), the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing entitled, “Next Steps for Positive Train Control Implementation”. This hearing focused on the implementation of positive train control (PTC) and anticipated compliance with the December 31, 2020 deadline. Witnesses included:
- The Honorable Ronald Batory, Administrator, Federal Railroad Administration;
- Ms. Susan Fleming, Director of Physical Infrastructure, Government Accountability Office;
- Mr. Jim Derwinski, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director, Metra;
- Mr. Chris Matthews, Assistant Vice President, Network Control Systems, BNSF Railway; and
- Mr. Robert Bourg, Vice President, Strategy and Growth, Wabtec Corporation;
To view the hearing and written testimony, please click here.
Non-Emergency Medical Transportation Bill Introduced in House of Representatives
On Friday, July 26, 2019, Representative Earl L. “Buddy” Carter introduced H.R. 3935, the “Protecting Patients Transportation to Care Act”, which provides for the continuing requirement of Medicaid coverage of nonemergency transportation to medically necessary services. APTA joined 56 other organizations in supporting this legislation. To view the list of organizations that support the bill, please click here.