Thirteen Democratic Members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee urged Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao July 27 to reconsider DOT’s approach to the infrastructure grant program known as INFRA, arguing that recent revisions distort the objectives of the program and rewrite Congressional intent.
The Department of Transportation on June 28 issued a Notice of Funding Opportunity for $1.5 billion in grants under the INFRA program that updated criteria for evaluating infrastructure projects. As part of that criteria, DOT said that it would leverage more non-federal funding and give priority consideration to projects that utilize less federal dollars. For example, a project that proposes a 20 percent federal share would be considered more competitive than an identical application proposing 50 percent federal share.
Committee Members, including Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), wrote to Sec. Chao that the Notice reflects the Administration’s desire to push a particular method of project delivery by clearly outlining that projects that use public-private partnerships (P3s) or private funds will get priority over projects using traditional funding.
Lawmakers argued that the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects program (now called INFRA) was a hallmark provision of the last highway bill, titled the FAST Act, and reflected a deep, bipartisan commitment by Members to provide dedicated Federal funding for large-scale freight and highway projects.
NATSO has long supported increased infrastructure investments but strongly believes that infrastructure projects should be funded by direct federal spending. Public-private partnerships typically translate into revenue funding schemes such as tolling or commercial rest areas, which are harmful to Interstate exit-based businesses and strongly opposed by NATSO.
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