Monday, October 26, 2015

Highway Bill Takes Major Step Forward After Bipartisan Vote by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

On Oct. 22, 2015, the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee unanimously approved H.R. 3763, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform (STRR) Act of 2015, to reauthorize and reform Federal-aid highways and highway safety programs. The overwhelming bipartisan support reflected in a voice vote in favor of the bill came after lawmakers expressed the need to pass a fiscally responsible program that sustains America’s infrastructure. “I am proud that we were able to work together and find a commom ground on this important bipartisan legsislation” said T&I Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.).  A quick summary of the legislation can be found here.
While the STRR Act brings our industry closer to securing a multi-year highway bill, the measure lacks the funding necessary to provide the long-term certainty needed to create a system that promotes safety and greater mobility. The $325 billion legislation provides six-years of contract authortiy with only three years of baseline funding, $16 billion below the spending levels assumed in the Senate-passed DRIVE Act. The allocation of the $325 billion is: $261 billion or highways, $55 billion for transit and $9 billion for national highway safety efforts.

Total New Highway Funding under House and Senate Bills
(in millions)

House Bill
Senate Bill

As a result, NAPA and industry stakeholders sent letters to the T&I Committee prior to the markup congratulating them on reaching an agreement to reauthorize the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), but expressing concerns with the inadequate funding levels in the legislation, specifically that current investment levels do not allow state transportation departments and the transportation construction industry to plan for long-term, large-scale highway improvement projects.
In regards to the HTF reauthorization timeline, there is no fixed schedule for the full House to take up the measure before the HTF expires on Oct. 29, making it apparent that Congress will be forced to enact yet another short-term extension. Hill staff has indicated that moving the legislation off the House floor and into conference remains a top priority, where both the House and Senate will hash out the funding mechanisms to support the $32 billion necessary for FY 2016-2018.
NAPA professional staff will gain more clarity after the Highway Coalitions meeting on Monday, Oct. 26 with Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Chief Deputy Whip McHenry (R-N.C.) , and Chairman Shuster (R-Pa.) to discuss the path forward on a long-term highway funding solution.
STRR Act Takeaways
  • Approved by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Oct. 22, 2015.
  • Create a new competitive grant program, the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects program, funded at $743 million annually.
  • Allows up to $500 million in the program to be used for rail freight projects paid for out of the HTF - Transportation Construct Coalition Letter opposing the provision
  • Reduce TIFIA from $1 billion annually to $200 million, while lowering the threshold for projects from $50 million to $10 million.
  • Reauthorizes the Accelerated Implementation and  Deployment of Asphalt Pavement Technologies (AID-PT) program at $6 million annually. 
  • Provide grants to states to demonstrate user-based alternative revenue mechanisms that use a user fee structure to maintain solvency of the Highway Trust Fund.
  • Two pavement amendments added to the legislation: "Innovative Materials" and "Highway Durability/Sustainability Study." 
This article has been provided by NAPA

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