Senate EPW Committee Unveils Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill

by Nossaman LLP
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Posted by guest blogger William Moore.

William Moore of Vianovo works with the Transportation Transformation Group, a consortia of public and private entities that looks at ways of improving the funding and financing of the nation's transportation infrastructure, which is co-chaired by Nossaman Partner Geoffrey Yarema.

The bipartisan leadership of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unveiled a six-year surface transportation bill last night that would maintain current funding under MAP-21 legislation expiring in September, plus inflation. Every state would see a boost in federal funds from what it currently receives, and the measure also increases public disclosures about how money is spent.  A committee summary and bill language is linked here.

The bill is scheduled for a markup Thursday.

The bill (S. 2322) would maintain TIFIA loans at current levels, while expanding the program to help states with infrastructure banks.  It revises current law governing Master Credit Agreements.

The bill would authorize spending $38.4 billion on the Highway Trust Fund’s federal aid highways portion for fiscal 2015. It would then increase with inflation to $39.2 billion in 2016, $40 billion in 2017, $40.8 billion in 2018, $41.7 billion in 2019 and $42.6 billion in 2020. It would authorize $400 million a year for Projects of National and Regional Significance program, seemingly as a substitute for the TIGER grant program, and would add a program authorized to spend $125 million a year for projects that show special innovation or would be completed ahead of time and below budget.

The bill would adjust minimum project cost categorical exclusions for inflation.  It would establish additional procedures to expedite environment reviews. 

A new freight program would be authorized at $400 million as of fiscal 2016, growing by $400 million a year to reach $2 billion in 2020.

The bill directs USDOT to study three or more sustainable funding alternatives, partner with states to conduct field trials and establish an advisory council to assist with the evaluation of funding mechanisms.  Alternative funding could include a fee based on the number of miles driven.

The bill does not detail tax provisions, such as increasing the PAB cap, that are under the Senate Finance Committee’s jurisdiction.  The bill is likely to require over $125 billion over six years to supplement motor fuels taxes and other excise taxes collected for the Highway Trust Fund.  Likewise, the bill includes no language on tolling.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nossaman LLP.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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