House Democrats Unveil $547B Highway Bill Amid Biden Talks

Peter DeFazio
Rep. Peter DeFazio by Olivier Douliery/Bloomberg News

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Democratic members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on June 4 unveiled a $547 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill.

The five-year Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act is meant to create millions of jobs and modernize the nation’s infrastructure. It was introduced by T&I Committee chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.).

The legislation is intended to meet President Joe Biden’s vision of putting people to work and addressing the climate crisis, which is laid out in the American Jobs Plan. The committee is scheduled to consider the bill June 9.

“The INVEST in America Act puts a core piece of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan into legislative text — seizing this once-in-a-generation opportunity to move our transportation planning out of the 1950s and toward our clean energy future,” DeFazio said. “Let’s get this done.”

The majority of the funding outlined in the bill — $343 billion — would be directed to roads, bridges and safety programs. It dedicates $32 billion to bridge funding. Some $4 billion would be invested in electric vehicle charging infrastructure, while another $8.3 billion would go to activities to reduce carbon pollution.

In terms of trucking provisions, the bill proposes $250 million for commercial motor vehicle parking each year for fiscal years 2023-26.

The bill also calls for the secretary of transportation to assess the risk posed by untreated obstructive sleep apnea in truck drivers and consider the feasibility of establishing screening criteria for sleep apnea in drivers.

While the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association expressed opposition to the sleep apnea screening provision, the group called the funds outlined for truck parking “remarkable.”

“For years, we have been pushing the federal government to take the lead in addressing the No. 1 concern for truckers: the lack of truck parking,” said OOIDA President Todd Spencer. “We’re pleased Chairman DeFazio’s proposal includes $1 billion to expand capacity.”

Some $109 billion was identified for transit purposes, such as increasing routes and the frequency of service, investing in zero-emission vehicles and offering a reduced-fare pilot program for low-income riders.

The remaining $95 billion would support passenger and freight rail. Funding for Amtrak would be tripled to $32 billion, allowing for enhanced services and upgrades to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“This investment in our nation’s future will encourage more Americans to use rail transportation, reduce traffic congestion, lower carbon emissions and reduce the effects of climate change,” Payne said.

In a joint statement, a group of Republican members of the T&I Committee called the legislation the “My Way or the Highway Bill 2.0.” The statement was made by ranking member Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) and Garret Graves (R-La.).

In May, House Republicans presented a $400 billion highway bill called the Surface Transportation Advanced through Reform, Technology and Efficient Review (STARTER) Act 2.0.

“Instead of working with Republicans to find common ground on a bill that could earn strong bipartisan support, this bill moves even further to the left to appease the most progressive members in the majority’s party,” the Republican T&I Committee members said in their joint statement. “So we are left with another bill that lets lengthy road and bridge project delays continue eating up precious resources, handcuffs our state and local partners, leaves rural communities behind and prioritizes the Green New Deal to an extent that cripples the real infrastructure improvements communities across the country need.”


Sen. Shelley Moore Capito speaks at the Capitol on May 27. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

The INVEST in America bill was presented as negotiations continue between top officials trying to reach a federal infrastructure deal. Biden was expected to meet with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) on June 4.

In the Senate, the Environment and Public Works Committee on May 26 unanimously approved a $304 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill. The bill still needs to be considered on the Senate floor.

The provisions of the country’s premier highway policy law, called the FAST Act, expire Sept. 30.

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