Senate Committee Releases Surface Transportation Bill

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) released a five-year, $287 billion surface transportation bill this morning, with a committee mark up scheduled for tomorrow, July 30.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) released a five-year, $287 billion surface transportation bill this morning, with a committee mark up scheduled for tomorrow, July 30.

NATSO is currently evaluating the measure, titled America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (ATIA) of 2019, and will have an in-depth analysis in the coming days.

Although it is unlikely that NATSO will support every component of a bill of this magnitude, we view it as a step in the right direction and congratulate the bipartisan leadership of the Committee for their effort to advance critical surface transportation law.

NATSO will monitor the July 30 mark up closely and will update members. 

Although EPW will mark up its bill tomorrow, July 30, the committee only has jurisdiction over highways. Other committees, including the Senate Finance Committee, which is responsible for finding a way to pay for the measure, will need to add their Titles to the bill before it can go before the full Senate.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Senator Chuck Grassley said his committee has not yet started working on its part of a surface transportation bill.

The bill, which is a reauthorization of the FAST Act, marks a nearly 28 percent increase over the last surface transportation reauthorization bill. As anticipated, 90 percent of the $287 billion is distributed to states by funding formula. This marks a slight decline from nearly 95 percent to allow for more discretionary grant programs.

Of importance to NATSO members, the measure would not lift the federal prohibitions on tolling existing interstates or commercializing rest areas. 

Notably, the measure establishes a grant program funded at $1 billion over five years for states and localities to build alternative fuel corridors, including electric vehicle charging infrastructure and natural gas refueling stations along designated highway corridors.

NATSO worked diligently to ensure that its members will have maximum access to that grant money and that there will be no refueling stations at rest areas.

For its part, NATSO supports private sector investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The travel plaza and truckstop industry is making significant investments in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and thinks that private sector investment is key to meeting the fueling needs of the traveling public. NATSO opposes allowing public utilities to unfairly compete against the private sector by utilizing rate payer dollars to make such investments, which would effectively destroy the incentive for private sector investment.

The bill provides $5.5 billion over five years for the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects program, known as “INFRA” and prioritizes certain interstate projects. Fifteen percent of INFRA funds would be required to go toward smaller projects. This marks an increase from 10 percent.

The bill sets aside $150 million per year for a pilot program that prioritizes projects offering a higher non-federal match. The bill also creates new grant administration transparency requirements.

On the House side, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) has set a different timetable for putting forward his committee’s version of a surface transportation bill.

Rep. DeFazio has said that “optimistically” his committee could have a bill ready by the end of this year or early next.

Current surface transportation law is set to expire in Sept. 2020.

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