Congress Eyes Surface Transportation Extension

With current surface transportation law set to expire Sept. 30, lawmakers in the House and the Senate are eyeing a 12-month extension to the FAST Act.

With current surface transportation law set to expire Sept. 30, lawmakers in the House and the Senate are eyeing a 12-month extension to the FAST Act.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee told reporters that the FAST Act should be extended for at least one year to limit month to month extensions and provide certainty to both states and industry.

Such an extension could pass as a standalone bill or be attached to a continuing resolution to keep the government funded that also has a Sept. 30 deadline.

For its part, NATSO supports the Senate approach to reauthorization. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in July 2019 advanced S. 2302, “America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act,” a $287 billion highway reauthorization bill. S. 2302, which is still awaiting a floor vote, ensures that highway and infrastructure programs are adequately funding without repealing the federal prohibitions on tolling existing interstates or commercializing rest areas.

It als creates a regulatory framework that is far more compatible with increasing investment in EV charging infrastructure than the House bill. S. 2302 would establish a grant program that would stimulate private investment in electric vehicle charging and natural gas refueling stations along designated highway corridors. Private sector investment in alternative fuels such as electricity and natural gas are key to meeting the fueling needs of the traveling public.

It is NATSO's hope that policymakers will steer grants toward projects where private capital is being placed at risk, rather than toward public utilities that inappropriately use their monopolistic stature to crowd out private investment in EV charging infrastructure.

NATSO strongly supports private sector investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and the travel plaza and truckstop community is making significant investments in this regard.

NATSO, along with the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) and the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America (SIGMA) opposed the House $1.5 trillion “Moving Forward Act” because two provisions will discourage private businesses from investing in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and stifle the market’s transition to electric vehicles.

Specifically, the groups opposed a provision that would carve out an exception for electric vehicle charging to the longstanding federal law prohibiting the sale of fuel, food and other services at rest areas. The federal ban on commercial activities at Interstate rest areas has incentivized businesses to invest in fuel stations just off of America's highways since the inception of the Interstate Highway System. Private sector development of this national fueling network has ensured that drivers of gasoline-powered cars do not suffer from range anxiety. A similar approach would drive demand for electric vehicles.

A second provision would allow investor-owned utilities to receive federal grants even if they have already raised rates on all of their customers to underwrite electric vehicle charging infrastructure investments. Fuel retailers will not invest in a technology where they have to pay for their own infrastructure and recover those costs while utilities can ‘double dip’ and have all of their investments covered by unwilling underwriters.

NATSO formed the National Highway Charging Collaborative with North America’s largest electric vehicle charging vendor, ChargePoint, to add electric vehicle charging to more than 4,000 travel plazas in the next decade. "The Moving Forward Act" threatens that goal.

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