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It’s Infrastructure Week, again. And, no, it’s not brought to you by President Donald Trump.
This time, blame Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
About a week ago, she told reporters that since the U.S. House had taken up big-picture policy measures, her caucus was now carving legislative room for a highway policy measure that would pay close attention to climate change. And, she would not wait for the White House to proceed with a measure.
“We thought we would be able to move in a positive way on this. So far they have not come on board. However, we decided now we’ll just have to go forward,” the speaker explained.
After Pelosi’s alert, congressional aides told Transport Topics details about a major highway bill could be released at any moment.
House Democrats appear determined to advance some sort of a measure. The Ways and Means Committee that oversees tax policy on Jan. 29 is scheduled to look into the thorny matter of highway funding. The Highway Trust Fund, which falls under the committee’s jurisdiction, relies on revenue from the federal fuel tax. That account is projected to run out of funds in 2021.
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Among the experts scheduled to explain highway funding policy to House policymakers is Joung Lee, director of Policy and Government Relations at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, whose group has emphasized the need for addressing the trust fund’s looming insolvency. They’re urging Congress to avoid a scenario in which the account is kept operable through short-term increments. State transportation officials and governors insist long-term funding at the federal level is valued for planning purposes.
Also appearing before the Ways and Means panel will be DJ Gribbin, founder of Madrus and the Trump White House’s architect of its infrastructure plan that went nowhere in 2018. Gribbin championed a funding approach that promoted private sector involvement to assist with big-ticket highway projects. Lawmakers representing rural areas pushed back on Gribbin’s plan.
Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), the House transportation panel’s ranking member, is not appearing before Ways and Means. He did, however, release findings of a report noting the potential of a vehicle-miles-traveled fee as a viable source of funding.
“The report clearly shows that transitioning to a VMT system is a more equitable way to charge drivers for the roads they use, and that we are in fact capable of beginning that transition now,” Graves said, referring to the Washington State Transportation Commission’s report.
Whatever the House transportation panel presents will be meant as an update of the FAST Act, a five-year highway law that expires in September. Last year, the Senate addressed an aspect of the FAST Act’s reauthorization. This version of Infrastructure Week notwithstanding, the fallout from the impeachment trial and the presidential contest in November diminishes the expectation that congressional leaders will act fast on a highway bill.
The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)
Jan. 28, 10 a.m.: The House Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing to review the Trump property at the Old Post Office Building in Washington.
Jan. 28-Feb. 2: The Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association hosts the annual Washington Auto Show, which began Jan. 24 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
Jan. 29, 10 a.m.: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee meets for a hearing titled, “Stakeholder perspectives on the importance of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board.”
January 28, 10:00 a.m.: The Senate Transportation and Safety Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “Building Infrastructure in America: Overview of the Build America Bureau and the U.S. Department of Transportation Rural Transportation Initiatives.” Witnesses include Joel Szabat, acting under secretary of transportation for policy; Morteza Farajian, executive director at the Build America Bureau; and John McCarthy, co-chairman of the Northwest Seaport Alliance.
Jan. 28, 11 a.m.: The U.S. Department of Transportation hosts a summit on human trafficking. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is scheduled to deliver keynote remarks.
Jan. 29, 9 a.m.: The Energy Information Administration hosts a discussion about the Annual Energy Outlook 2020. Participants include EIA Administrator Linda Capuano; Marie Jordan, CEO of Peak Reliability; Karen Hyde, vice president, chief risk officer and chief audit executive at Xcel Energy; Charles Rossmann, economist at the Southern Co.
Jan. 29, 10 a.m.: The House Ways and Means Committee meets for a hearing titled, “Paving the Way for Funding and Financing Infrastructure Investments.” Witnesses include Joung Lee, director of Policy and Government Relations at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials; Philip Fischer, founder of eBooleant Consulting; Laura Canter, executive vice president and division director of the finance programs division for Massachusetts Development Finance Agency; Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation; and DJ Gribbin, founder of Madrus.
If House Democrats gain momentum during highway policy discussions, the potential for advancing comprehensive legislation could increase.
In Case You Missed It
A long-term funding fix for the Highway Trust Fund appears to be on the radars of a top House Democrat and a Trump Cabinet official.
In his State of the Union next month, President Trump is expected to bring up infrastructure policy, sources tell us.
Black Mamba is no longer with us after dying in a helicopter crash in California that also took the lives of eight others. At Transport Topics, we take a moment to remember the great Kobe Bryant.
A rare Washington double meta moment took place during the president’s impeachment trial. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is presented with remarks by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
-->Nadler just played Rep. Lindsey Graham 1999 back to (video) Sen. Lindsey Graham 2020 (in his seat).— Lisa Desjardins (@LisaDNews) January 23, 2020
Graham 1999: "What is a high crime? How about if an important person hurts somebody of low means? ... doesn't have to be a crime. It's when you act in a way that hurts people."
The Last Word
Conservative solutions to address carbon dioxide emissions do exist. However, new taxes and higher consumer energy costs are neither winning nor workable.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, on Jan 24.
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