Senate EPW Committee unveils 6-year highway bill

| Published on May 13, 2014

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The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee on Monday night revealed the text of its surface transportation reauthorization bill.

Dubbed the MAP-21 Reauthorization Act, the six-year bill would reauthorize surface transportation projects through fiscal year 2020 and is indexed for inflation.

Highlights outlined in the bill’s summary include:

  • Six years of fully-funded highway programs

  • Greater transparency of Highway Trust Fund (HTF) use

  • Increased support for existing core formula programs

  • Targeted funds for projects of national or regional significance

  • Fully-funded freight and goods movement program

  • Improved TIFIA program

  • Expanded flexibility for state and local governments

  • Authorization of awards program for state and local governments

  • Acceleration of project delivery

  • Funding for tribal and federal lands

  • Continued state and metropolitan planning

Related: Highway funding talks ramp up

Under the bill’s provisions, the core highway program would get a nearly $4 billion boost, from $38.44 billion in 2015 to $42.59 billion in 2020, and the TIFIA program would get $1 billion annually for six years. The bill also calls for the establishment of a national freight network, which would get $400 million in 2016, with that amount rising to $2 billion by 2020.

The bill would only reauthorize transportation spending. The Senate Finance Committee will have to find a way to fund projects authorized under the bill. Politico reports that Chairman Ron Wyden is considering a short-term patch if the committee can’t find a way to fund the full bill.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said on Monday that the bill is not large enough, The Hill reports.

“I just spent the better part of a week going to eight states, 12 cities large and small,” Foxx said, referring to his April bus tour. “And I have to tell you that America has been waiting on a bigger solution.”

Related: U.S. DOT: Highway Trust Fund could shortfall in late August

Last month, Foxx presented President Barack Obama’s $302 billion, four-year reauthorization proposal — now known as the GROW AMERICA Act — to Congress. The Hill notes that the administration’s proposal would authorize about $25 billion more annually than the Senate EPW’s.

Shortly after the committee released the bill text on Monday, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the EPW Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said the bill “really touches every American from city centers to rural highways.”

He noted the $2 billion per year the bill authorizes for freight flow on key corridors, adding that the program “supports economic growth.”

“These high-value projects will be targeted at improving the affordability, reliability, and efficiency of freight movement, reducing costs for businesses to help them to grow and better compete,” Carper said in a written statement. “The program will enable states to develop multi-modal freight investment plans that will ensure each state is investing in projects that support the biggest benefit to commerce and business, and provide taxpayers with a strong return on investment.”

Carper also pointed to the Projects of National and Regional Significance program and provisions that require states to use funds to clean up diesel pollution, noting that he is “excited about new, dedicated funding” for these specific areas.

To read the full text of the bill, click here. The bill is slated for markup Thursday at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

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