House T&I Committee Approves Six Year Federal Surface Transportation Act

The House of Representative’s Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee marked up and unanimously approved the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015 (H.R. 3763). The bill, which was introduced on October 20th, authorizes $325 billion in surface transportation and infrastructure improvement spending over six years ($261 billion to highways, $55 billion to transit and approximately $9 billion to safety programs) from fiscal years 2016 through 2021. The bill authorizes the funding for six years, however funding is only guaranteed for the first three years and in order to release funding for years 3 through 6, congress must identify and approve new or additional funding mechanisms.

New Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, is moving the bill through the House this week. 81 amendments were passed through the Rules Committee on Tuesday, November 3rd. Members of the house have spent the past two days debating the 81 amendments and plan to pass the bill today, before leaving on a week-long recess. Once passed through the House, Congressional Conferencing will begin next week in an effort to pass the bill by December.

If passed, the bill will provide fiscal certainty to state and local governments needed to move forward on major infrastructure improvement projects. Earlier this month GDOT delayed $123 million in federally funded projects that were scheduled to go to bid at the end of this year due to the uncertainty surrounding federal transportation funding. To view the list of delayed projects, which includes several projects in the metro Atlanta region, click HERE.

Other reforms laid out in the bill include streamlining the environmental review and permitting processes by eliminating the requirement for NEPA review where state regulations are already in place. The bill also converts a major portion of the TIFIA Surface Transportation Loan Program into a block grant program in an effort to maximize the flexibility for states and increasing the amount of funding that is distributed to local governments. The bill also reauthorizes federal public transportation programs and implements reforms to increase efficiency and safety of transit systems. Specifically, the bill consolidates Federal Transit Administration research programs to increase efficiency and accountability, offers greater flexibility to states to partner with inter-city bus providers to support greater rural mobility, including the provision of a competitive grant option to address bus and bus facility needs. Congressman Rob Woodall of Gwinnett, is the only Georgian on the T&I Committee, and included an amendment to eliminate barriers that hinder veterans from entering the trucking and logistics industry.

The Council for Quality Growth commends Congressman Woodall and his colleagues in the House for their work on this critical legislation that will provide stability and support for State and local transportation departments to continue to improve Georgia’s infrastructure.

To view a summary of the bill, click HERE

To view the full text of the mark-up approved by the T&I Committee, Click HERE