U.S. Senators introduce $287 billion highway bill

$287 billion highway bill

A $287 billion highway bill proposal reauthorizing funding to maintain and repair the country's roads and bridges includes a first-ever title addressing carbon emissions and supporting electric vehicle infrastructure.

The legislation, a five-year reauthorization of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act to be called America's Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019, was introduced on July 29 by the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. The proposed funding for federal-aid highway programs is a 27 percent increase from the $226 billion authorized in the current legislation, which expires in October 2020.

"The [EPW proposal] is the most substantial highway infrastructure bill in history," said the committee's chairman, John Barrasso (R-Wyoming). "The bill cuts Washington red tape, so road construction can get done faster, better, cheaper and smarter. It will help create jobs and support our strong, growing and healthy economy. Infrastructure is critical to our country and we should responsibly pay for this legislation."

Tom Carper (D-Delaware), the committee's ranking member, said addressing air pollution in a highway bill will help move the country "toward a safer, more connected, efficient and climate-friendly transportation system" to keep up with the global economy.

"We're just getting started, but I look forward to moving this bill out of committee this week and the work ahead of us to get it across the finish line." The bill must be paired with a version from the U.S. House of Representatives that is not expected to be introduced until the fall of this year, at the earliest.

The Senate legislation increases funding for the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant program for freight projects to $5.5. billion, a 22 percent increase from the $4.5 billion authorized in the FAST Act. It increases the minimum amount of INFRA funds to go towards smaller projects from 10 to 15 percent, and sets aside $150 million per year for a pilot program that prioritizes projects offering a higher non-federal match. It would also create new transparency requirements for administering the grants.

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