The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee advanced its five-year, $547 billion INVEST in America Act (H.R. 3684) early this morning after 19 hours of debate. The measure passed despite opposition from Republicans who objected to Green New Deal Initiatives and a lack of bipartisan input.
The committee voted 38 to 26 to advance H.R. 3684 after considering nearly 200 amendments and adopting a Manager’s packet of amendments. The Transportation Committee is the first House committee to advance its portion of a surface transportation reauthorization, with the Ways and Means Committee holding jurisdiction over how to pay for the package. Any bill ultimately passed by the House would need to be conferenced with the Senate.
It should be noted that the House bill is separate from President Biden’s trillion-dollar infrastructure bill.
NATSO has been closely engaged with lawmakers and staff on this legislation. The INVEST in America Act includes a number of provisions of importance to NATSO members, including on rest area commercialization, tolling, electric vehicle charging, truck parking and trucking.
Rest Area Commercialization:
The INVEST in America Act includes two provisions 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. Specifically, the bill would permit states to allow electric vehicle charging at rest areas or on the Interstate right-of-way.
NATSO and a diverse coalition of representing hundreds of thousands of small businesses as well as American cities and municipalities and blind entrepreneurs urged Members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to oppose provisions of the INVEST in America Act that undermine the longstanding prohibition on commercializing rest areas in advance of the June 9 markup.
The coalition, which includes fuel retailers, restaurants, blind entrepreneurs, convenience stores as well as city and local governments, urged lawmakers to oppose Sections 1118 and 1211 of the INVEST in America Act that would allow electric vehicle charging on the Interstate right-of-way and at Interstate rest areas.
NATSO, SIGMA: America’s Leading Fuel Marketers and the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) also sent a separate letter June 8 urging Committee Members to ensure that public policy lays the foundation for a competitive market for electric vehicle charging.
Electric Vehicle Charging:
Section 1303 would establish a “Clean Corridors” program to provide funds for the acquisitions and installation of electric vehicle charging and hydrogen infrastructure. Eligible entities would be required to consider the proximity of existing off-highway travel centers, fuel retailers, and small businesses to electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
NATSO supports efforts to develop an alternative fuel corridor grant program and expand the adoption of alternative fuels, including electric vehicle charging. As such, NATSO is aggressively seeking to ensure that as much of these dollars as possible go to businesses that have on-site amenities that drivers are accustomed to. With thousands of established locations crisscrossing the nation, truckstops, travel plazas and off-highway fuel retailers are well suited to replicate today’s fueling experience for drivers of electric vehicles while ensuring that drivers of electric-powered cars will not suffer from range anxiety.
The Manager’s Amendment adopted by the Committee amended the INVEST in America Act to ensure that grant recipients allocated dollars to entities with available onsite amenities for vehicle operators, including restrooms or food facilities.
Congressman Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) submitted four amendments seeking to prohibit the construction of electric vehicle charging at rest areas or on the right-of-way and to prohibit states that receive funds under the Clean Corridors program from utilizing those funds to construct or maintain public utilities-owned charging infrastructure or from providing those funds to a public utility for the purpose of constructing or maintaining charging infrastructure.
As advanced out of Committee, the INVEST in America Act does not include specific restrictions precluding regulated utilities from accessing both ratepayer and highway trust fund dollars to invest in electric vehicle charging stations.
It does, however, include provisions directing the Department of Transportation to direct dollars toward projects that will "foster enhanced, coordinated, public-private or private investment in charging and fueling infrastructure," and "ensure consumer protection and pricing transparency." Such language has not been in previous versions of these bills.
During the hearing, Congressman Garret Graves (R-LA.) said the government did not fund the nation’s current fueling network.
The INVEST Act would make it more difficult for states to toll, including repealing certain tolling pilot programs and establishing new tolling guardrails for states.
Specifically, it would repeal the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program (ISRRPP), which permits three states to collect tolls on existing Interstate highways for the purposes of reconstructing or rehabilitating Interstate Highway corridors. NATSO and the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates have long-advocated for repeal of the ISRRPP. The pilot program is more than 20 years old and no state has ever successfully implemented the program due to strong public opposition to tolling.
The INVEST Act also would replace the Value Pricing Pilot, which permits designated states to deploy variable tolls to address traffic congestion, with a new congestion pricing program and establishes new restrictions on what qualifies for congestion pricing. Under the INVEST Act, states would have to apply for tolling authority, taking into consideration congestion and air quality impacts as well as economic impacts.
The bill does not include a prohibition on truck-only tolls, nor does it set limits on what types of bridges can be tolled. Trucking groups have been advocating for such limits as states like Rhode Island and Pennsylvania seek to toll bridges as a way to circumvent existing federal tolling law.
The INVEST Act would set aside funds for states, public agencies and local governments to construct commercial parking on the Federal Highway System.
The INVEST Act allocates $250 million dollars for each of the fiscal years 2023 through 2026. (Moving Forward, by comparison, allocated $125 million in its first year and increased funds each year up to $175 million for 2025.)
The bill specifies that states could utilize funds awarded under the program to put in commercial truck parking adjacent to private commercial truckstops or travel plazas and that grant recipients may partner with a private entity to carry out an eligible project.
NATSO worked closely with Rep. Bost (R-Ill.), who introduced the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, which was incorporated into the INVEST Act, to ensure that grant recipients could partner with truckstops and travel plazas. NATSO thinks that to the extent that the federal government allocates designated funds for truck parking such partnerships should be prioritized because the private sector provides 90 percent of the nation’s commercial truck parking.
Eligible entities must agree not to charge for parking constructed with the grant money.
NATSO has long maintained that the best way to address any truck parking capacity concerns is for motor carriers to negotiate truck parking in their contractual relationships with truckstops and travel plazas.
Because the private sector provides 90 percent of the nation’s commercial truck parking capacity, NATSO also has long advocated for the federal and state Departments of Transportation to remove barriers to private sector investment in truck parking capacity.
NATSO also encourages the exploration of the use of tax incentives or land acquisition assistance for the private sector to build new parking capacity.
Congressman Mike Bost (R-Ill.) offered an amendment to strike a provision that would increase trucking’s minimum insurance requirements for motor carriers from $750,000 to $2 million. Bost said that increasing the minimums would drive small motor carriers out of business and discourage truck drivers at a time when the industry is suffering from a truck driver shortage. Congressman Chuy Garcia (D-Ill.) was among those who opposed the amendment, which was ultimately rejected, arguing that current insurance requirements are inadequate and have not been adjusted for inflation since being set in 1980.
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