On October 23, 2015 the U.S. House of Representatives’ Transportation & Infrastructure Committee unveiled a six-year surface transportation reauthorization bill. The bipartisan legislation, titled, the Surface Transportation Re-authorization and Reform Act (STRRA) of 2015, contains three years of flat-level funding for highway and transit programs and will be marked-up by the committee this Thursday. In rolling out their bill, legislative sponsors have stated the importance of its provisions to reform existing programs, refocus those programs on national priorities, provide more flexibility and certainty for state and local partners, and emphasis on transportation innovation.
ASCE believes that status quo funding levels for surface transportation, as is provided in STRRA, are inadequate. Currently this underinvestment costs the average American family about $1,000 from their budget each year from now until 2020 due to the current road, bridge and transit conditions. ASCE believes that members of the House should utilize every available opportunity to attempt to increase funding levels for highway and transit programs beyond where they currently exist in STRRA.
Despite the inadequate funding levels, STRRA does contain policy items that ASCE supports, including:
- Multi-year program certainty that will help states and localities better plan and deliver projects;
- Accelerated project delivery reforms aimed to improve collaboration between agencies and create deadlines for agency action(s);
- Providing grants to states for continued and expanded pilot testing of future road user fee collection systems;
- A new competitive grant to address bus and bus facility needs;
- Increased focus on funding for roadway safety infrastructure and on the safety needs of rural roads; and
- An option for localities to bundle small projects such as bridges to increase efficiency.
The introduction of the House bill follows action by the Senate in July in passing a multi-year bill with increased funding levels. In order to get a bill to President Obama for his signature soon, the House will have to pass a bill and negotiate a compromise with the Senate. The House and Senate will then have to pass that identical bill through each chamber for it to be sent to the President. Please contact your House member and urge he/she to move forward on a House bill in order to get to a conference with the Senate where agreement can be reached on a final bill. The House markup is set to begin this Thursday 10-29-2015 at 10:00AM ET.