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June 2, 2020 12:45 PM, EDT

Senate Panel to Meet for Infrastructure Discussion June 4

Road in need of repair in MichiganA road in need of repair in Lansing, Mich. (Michigan Department of Transportation)

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Senators on the committee responsible for highway policy are scheduled to meet June 4 to review infrastructure concerns with the mayor of Louisville, Ky., and other stakeholders.

Mayor Greg Fischer, incoming president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, will be joined at the Environment and Public Works Committee by Steve McGough, chairman of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, and Doug Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors’ leadership, as well as the road builders association, repeatedly have called for the approval of comprehensive infrastructure funding legislation at the federal level. Fischer’s appearance before the panel occurs at a time when Louisville and other metropolitan areas experience various forms of demonstrations. Holtz-Eakin is the former director of the Congressional Budget Office.

Last year, the EPW committee advanced a five-year, $287 billion highway policy bill that proposed severe-weather resilience for construction projects and streamlining environmental permitting regulations. The Senate’s Republican leaders have yet to schedule floor consideration for the highway policy measure.

Funding concerns remained unresolved in the Senate bill. The EPW panel lacks jurisdiction over the Highway Trust Fund, a key element in funding the surface transportation system. Dwindling revenue from the fuel tax is used by the Highway Trust Fund to assist states with maintenance and construction projects. The Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees have jurisdiction over the Highway Trust Fund. Those two committees have not resolved the account’s looming insolvency.

Road construction in Florida

Expressway construction in Miami-Dade County. (Tomas Mina/Getty Images)

On the other side of the Capitol, several stakeholders are anticipating the release of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s version of a highway policy bill. Last month, the committee, led by Democrats, told Transport Topics details about their legislation would be announced in a few weeks.

The House panel’s measure is expected to mirror a five-year, $760 billion blueprint House Democrats unveiled in January. The document outlined $329 billion for highway programs, $105 billion for transit systems, $86 billion for investments in broadband, $60.5 billion for wastewater and other water infrastructure programs, and $55 billion for rail networks. Missing from their policy blueprint was a fix for the Highway Trust Fund.

After proposing multiple times in March and April that borrowing $2 trillion for infrastructure projects would help to alleviate economic woes caused by the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump has not revisited the issue. In February, Trump told Congress during the State of the Union address to approve the EPW panel’s highway bill. Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso is the committee’s chairman.

“We must also rebuild America’s infrastructure,” the president said Feb. 4. “I ask you to pass Sen. John Barrasso’s highway bill to invest in new roads, bridges and tunnels all across our land.”

The 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax and 24.4 cents-per-gallon diesel tax were set in 1993.

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