Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate both approved a five-year, $305 billion highway, transit and railway authorization bill. The overwhelming, bipartisan vote was 359-65 in the House and 83-16 in the Senate. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law later on today. Thank you, infrastructure supporters, for contacting your members of Congress, which certainly helped secure this victory!
In the run-up to the vote, ASCE leadership urged adoption of the legislation known as the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. The FAST Act provides nearly $233 billion for highways, $49 billion for transit and $10 billion federal passenger rail. By the end of the bill’s five-year duration, highway investment would rise by 15% and transit spending would grow by nearly 18%. The FAST Act is the longest surface transportation authorization bill since the enactment of a previous five-year bill in 2005.
The bill includes:
- Creation of a dedicated $1.25 billion freight program to help ensure federal investments are targeted at improving U.S. economic competitiveness;
- Providing $900 million per year for large-scale projects under a new, nationally-significant freight and highways program;
- Cutting the TIFIA program from $1 billion annually to around $300 million per year. TIFIA helps leverage billions of dollars in private sector capital for investment in our nation’s infrastructure;
- Innovation initiatives, such as establishing a national program to explore surface transportation funding alternatives to the fuels tax; and
- Investment in transit by creating a new research and deployment program, increasing funds for fixed guideways, and establishing a new bus facility program.
The bill was paid for through $70 billion in general fund money, which came from sources unrelated to transportation. The largest offset came from spending down a capital surplus account in the Federal Reserve. The bill does not #FixTheTrustFund as ASCE had been calling for, because it does not provide a sustainable source of revenues to support the Highway Trust Fund. The Highway Trust Fund is now slated to experience a $24 billion annual shortfall starting in fiscal year 2021 should Congress fail to provide a future funding fix to this looming crisis.
Thank you for all of your efforts over the past several months in helping to secure program certainty and increased funding for our nation’s federal surface transportation programs!