House Transportation Chair DeFazio unveils infrastructure bill details

U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) yesterday unveiled details of House Democratic leaders’ $494 billion, five-year surface transportation bill, dubbed the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST).

The bill calls for $411 billion for five years out of the Highway Trust Fund for highway, transit, safety and research programs, a 46 percent increase over current investment levels, according to the bill’s summary.

In addition, the bill includes $105 billion for transit programs and $60 billion for rail programs.

House Republicans on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee criticized the legislation, saying they were not allowed the opportunity to address their priorities in the bill.

“For example, today’s partisan bill lacks critical flexibility for the states, its outsized funding increases for urban areas will leave rural American even further behind, and numerous new green mandates and extreme progressive goals are woven throughout the fabric of new and existing core programs,” said a statement released by Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and other Republican members of the committee.

Several rail and transportation organizations yesterday also issued statements on the proposal. Following are examples of those statements:

• “America’s railroads are extremely disappointed in the House surface transportation reauthorization released today. When all of us should be working together toward common sense solutions, this partisan legislation falls far short of what this moment demands. Smart policies have helped railroads continue to deliver for their customers during this pandemic. Now is not the time to retreat from these much less impose wish-list policy riders or unnecessary operational requirements, such as mandating crew size, barring the streamlining of operations and constraining the already limited capacity of the rail network.” — Ian Jefferies, president and chief executive officer, Association of American Railroads

• “There will be many policies considered in this bill that are crucially important to the ability of the short-line freight railroad industry to meet the evolving needs of our customers, enabling thousands of important agricultural, energy and industrial shippers in small-town and rural America to remain connected to national and global economies.” — Chuck Baker, president, American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association

• “We strongly support the bill and its critical investments for surface transportation infrastructure. … This forward thinking legislation will transform our nation’s infrastructure and put us on the path to build more equitable communities for all Americans. … The bill also includes critical funding and flexibility to enable public transit systems to continue to respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.” — American Public Transportation Association

• “This legislation will provide over $60 billion in much-needed funding to support substantive improvements to rail infrastructure across the country, including $29 billion for Amtrak and $19 billion for passenger-rail improvement, modernization and expansion projects. We also commend inclusion of strong funding levels for federal transit and grade crossing safety programs. … [Railway Supply Institute] is also pleased with the commitment to Buy America enforcement in this bill, which will close loopholes and add incentives to boost American jobs while streamlining compliance and leveling the playing field for U.S. manufacturers.” — Mike O’Malley, president, Railway Supply Institute

• “The Coalition for America’s Gateways & Trade Corridors (CAGTC) applauds the INVEST in America Act’s continuation of dedicated investment in our nation’s freight assets, first through the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Program in fiscal-year 2021, then through the Projects on National and Regional Significance Program through the remaining years of the proposal. Competitive grant programs are essential to funding large-scale goods movement infrastructure projects, which are difficult to fund through traditional distribution methods such as formula programs.” — Elaine Nessle, executive director, CAGTC

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