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July 29, 2019 3:00 PM, EDT

Senate Panel to Consider 5-Year, $287 Billion Highway Bill July 30

Sen. John Barrasso Barrasso says the reauthorization bill cuts Washington red tape so infrastructure projects can get done more expediently and at a lower cost. (NBC News via YouTube)

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The first step to reauthorize the country’s highway programs is scheduled for July 30 in the Senate, thanks to the leadership of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

This five-year, $287 billion reauthorization of the 2015 FAST Act highway law was described by Chairman John Barrasso as “the most substantial highway infrastructure bill in history.”

Eugene Mulero

Mulero

“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,” Barrasso (R-Wyo.) explained.

Ranking Democrat Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) pointed to the legislation’s inclusion of climate-centric provisions to “invest $10 billion in policies and innovative projects aimed at reducing emissions and enhancing resilience.”

The legislation also would authorize more than $6 billion over five years for a competitive program designed to focus on rehabilitating bridges.

The consideration of the reauthorization notwithstanding, policymakers on the tax-writing panels tasked with addressing the looming insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund have not said when they intend to legislate on the Highway Trust Fund. The account helps to facilitate highway programs with revenue from the dwindling fuel tax.

And, on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, @realDonaldTrump has not been tweeting about infrastructure funding policy.

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

Ronald Batory of FRA

Batory

Spotlight Hearing

July 31, 2 p.m.: The Senate Commerce Committee will “focus on the implementation of positive train control and anticipated compliance with the Dec. 31, 2020, deadline” when it hears from stakeholders. Witnesses include Robert Bourg, vice president of Strategic Development at Wabtec Corp.; Jim Derwinski, CEO and executive director at Metra; Susan Fleming, director of physical infrastructure at the Government Accountability Office; Chris Matthews, assistant vice president of Network Control Systems at BNSF Railway; and Ronald Batory, administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.

July 29, 8:30 a.m.: The Economic Club of Washington, D.C. hosts Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

July 30, 10 a.m.: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee considers legislation that would authorize $287 billion over five years for highway programs.

July 30, 10:15 a.m.: Tom Vilsack, CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, and Derek J. Leathers, CEO of Werner Enterprises, participate in a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee to discuss the “The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.”

Aug. 1, 9 a.m.: The Unified Carrier Registration Plan board of directors meets to review the developing and implementing of the Unified Carrier Registration Plan and Agreement.

Aug. 2, 7 p.m.: Politics and Prose Bookstore hosts a discussion on the book, “God Land: A Story of Faith, Loss and Renewal in Middle America.”

Mood Swings

The consideration on July 30 of legislation that would reauthorize the five-year FAST Act highway law presents the potential for transformative infrastructure policy to advance in the current session of Congress.

 

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Who’s New

APTA logo

Upgrades to the Washington metropolitan region’s subway system, as well as enhancements to the airport, bus services, bike trails and pedestrian paths in Northern Virginia persuaded the people at Amazon.com to open up shop in Arlington County. Such firms are choosing places with a transit-centric ecosystem because mobility options are important to most employees, several studies have shown. Simply put, people want options. Any effort to reduce or eliminate funding for public transportation options are misguided, the American Public Transportation Association said in response to a report by the Congressional Budget Office in December titled, “Options for Reducing the Deficit: 2019 to 2028.”

“Access to public transportation is a major factor in business relocation efforts because the American workforce is looking for mobility options. Be it for their daily commute to work, running errands, or for recreation, employees want flexibility, corporations like Amazon, Target, State Farm and major hoteliers are responding to the wants of the workforce and moving their headquarters to locations that provide them access to the largest pools of prospective employees,” Chad Chitwood, APTA’s manager of advocacy communications, told Transport Topics July 29.

Buzz

In the fall, appropriators from the Northeast will participate in a push to ensure funding for the New York-New Jersey Gateway tunnel project, per sources.

Favorite Video

The Scooter Generation, alive and well.

Favorite Tweet

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

The Last Word

The fact that you ran it out two years means you perpetuated injustice.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) on July 24, addressing former Special Counsel Robert Mueller

Rep. Louie Gohmert

We publish weekly when Congress is in session. E-mail emulero@ttnews.com with tips. Follow us @eugenemulero and @transporttopics.