By Lauren Schapker, vice president, legislative affairs, ARTBA
The Senate America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (ATIA) Committee July 30 unanimously approved the America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (ATIA), legislation introduced July 29 by EPW Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee Chairman Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Subcommittee Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md). If enacted, the measure would significantly increase funds for highway and bridge improvements from FY 2021 through FY 2025.
Chairman Barrasso addressed his colleagues at the markup stating, “the legislation, as modified by the substitute amendment by the four of us, will make an historic investment in our roads, cut Washington red tape, keep communities safe, and will help to continue to grow America’s economy.”
“The fact that a bill as significant as this one also happens to be bipartisan really should not come as a great surprise to anyone, because – in a greater sense – our nation’s transportation infrastructure helps bring all Americans together,” added Carper.
Investment in traditional core highway accounts would increase by 17 percent in FY 2021 over FAST Act reauthorization levels, and $259 billion would be distributed by formula to the states. A substantial boost to freight improvements is also outlined in ATIA, providing $13.93 billion over five years for existing freight formula and discretionary grant programs.
A new discretionary grant program to improve the nation’s bridge conditions would invest $6.53 billion over five years, and funding for the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) Program would continue at $300 million each year with expanded eligibility for airport and transit-oriented development projects, among other activities.
The measure also would codify President Trump’s “One Federal Decision” Executive Order, in an effort to accelerate project delivery by consolidating permitting decisions into one single environmental document set by a federal “lead” agency, with a goal of completing the environmental review process by an average two-year timeframe.
The EPW committee’s early action on the bill should be lauded, as it represents a departure from the series of extensions and years of delay that plagued the last few reauthorization cycles. The strong show of bipartisanship from the committee is also encouraging, as this is the first step toward enacting a long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill.