House Democrats introduce INVEST in America Act

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor · June 4, 2020

As the clock continues to tick on the current surface transportation authorization, the FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act, which is set to expire on September 30, 2020, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) this week released text for a new long-term authorization, entitled Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act.

This legislation is a key component of the five-year, $760 billion outline, entitled “Moving Forward Framework,” which was released in January, with House Democrats saying at the time that its objective is to get the country’s “existing infrastructure working again and fund new transformative projects that will create more than 10 million jobs, while reducing carbon pollution, dramatically improving safety, and spurring economic activity.

“The bulk of our nation’s infrastructure—our roads, bridges, public transit and rail systems, the things that hundreds of millions of American families and businesses rely on every single day— is not only badly outdated, in many places it’s downright dangerous and holding our economy back,” DeFazio said in a statement. “Yet for decades, Congress has repeatedly ignored the calls for an overhaul and instead simply poured money into short-term patches. The result? We’re still running our economy on an inefficient, 1950s-era system that costs Americans increasingly more time and money while making the transportation sector the nation’s biggest source of carbon pollution…The INVEST in America Act is our opportunity to replace the outdated systems of the past with smarter, safer, more resilient infrastructure that fits the economy of the future, creates millions of jobs, supports American manufacturing, and restores U.S. competitiveness.”

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure said that the INVEST in America Act enables the completion of critical projects through long-term, sustainable funding and authorizes nearly $500 billion over five years, while also accounting for the economic downturn, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The key freight transportation and supply chain components of the bill include:

requiring National Highway Performance Program (NHPP) funds to focus on state of good repair and operational improvements to existing facilities before building new highway capacity;

makes the freight formula program fully multimodal and expands environmental considerations in freight planning;

allows States to designate additional rural and urban freight corridors and provides more flexibility for States to expend funds across the National Highway Freight Network

provides more than $9 billion in discretionary grants for Projects of National and Regional Significance over the life of the bill for large highway, transit, and freight projects that cannot be funded through annual apportionments or other discretionary sources;

provides $350 million per year for grants for electric vehicle charging and hydrogen fueling infrastructure. Focuses funding on designated Alternative Fuel Corridors and projects that demonstrate the most effective emissions reductions;

provides $250 million for a single-year grant, of which half is set away for freight grants, which will be awarded for reducing urban congestion in large metro areas, with an emphasis on operational, technological, and mode shift strategies;

provides $250 million for a single-year grant to construct and improve truck parking facilities;

authorizes significantly higher funding levels for the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program, High Priority grants, and Commercial Driver’s License Program Implementation grants to assist States in truck and bus safety oversight and enforcement activities, commercial driver licensing, and technology

improvements to support those efforts;

nearly doubles funding for VMT pilots across the country, encouraging States to begin implementing successful VMT programs;

establishes a national VMT pilot program, including both passenger and commercial vehicles in all 50 States, to invest in developing a sustainable funding mechanism for the surface transportation system;

revises the National Multimodal Freight Policy, the National Strategic Freight Plan, and the requirements for State Freight Plans to include further consideration of environmental and equity impacts;

establishes a new deadline for the Secretary to designate a final National Multimodal Freight Network and requires the Secretary to report to Congress on the resources that will be used to meet this deadline;

establishes a joint task force between the Department of Transportation and the Internal Revenue Service to study the establishment and administration of a fee on multimodal freight surface transportation services; and

streamlines the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) by raising the threshold above which projects are required to secure multiple credit rating agency options, among others

The INVEST in America Act was soundly endorsed by Elaine Nessle, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors.

“The September 30 expiration of the FAST Act is swiftly approaching and there are many factors challenging a timely reauthorization,” said Nessle. “I commend Chairman DeFazio and his subcommittee Chairs for developing a five-year reauthorization proposal for consideration. The INVEST in America Act includes several programs that stand to benefit the movement of goods, including both competitive grant and formula funds available for multimodal supply chain infrastructure. As the reauthorization process moves forward, we look forward to working with House and Senate leaders to support a bipartisan proposal that includes a robustly funded freight program.”

And co-chair of Building America’s Future and former U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, in a statement, that with the September 30th expiration of the FAST Act rapidly approaching it is gratifying to see such a comprehensive and robustly funded transportation proposal being put forth.

“However, it is imperative that Republicans and Democrats work together to craft policies that will put our nation back on track, provide good paying jobs for our friends and neighbors and ensure that our nation regains its economic competitiveness,” he added.

June 4, 2020