House passes surface transportation reauthorization

The House of Representatives passed the INVEST in America Act earlier today by a margin of 221-201. The legislation passed on a mostly party line vote, with two Republicans—Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Rep Chris Smith (R-NJ)—voting in support of the legislation.

The five-year, $715 billion package includes $343 billion for roads, bridges and safety, with $15.9 billion of that dedicated to the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP).

ATSSA President & CEO Stacy Tetschner expressed support for the action.

“ATSSA applauds the passage of the INVEST in America Act in the House of Representatives today. Although not perfect, this legislation increases critical funding levels for roadway safety infrastructure projects on rural, urban, suburban and tribal roads,” Tetschner said. “Importantly, this package moves Congress closer to finishing the job of enacting a long-term, safety-focused highway bill before Oct. 1. ATSSA’s members look forward to working with Congress in a bipartisan fashion to get the job done and save lives on U.S. roadways.”

With this legislation passing the full House, attention now turns to the Senate. Earlier this year, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee passed its version of this bill, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act (STRA) of 2021. It passed out of the committee with bipartisan support. The STRA still needs to be brought for a full vote on the Senate floor. However, it remains to be seen how the bill could be incorporated into a larger infrastructure package currently being negotiated by Senate leaders and the White House.

The Invest in America Act includes the following.

Tribal Road Safety
ATSSA worked with Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) to introduce an amendment that was included in the final package, doubling the set-aside for safety in the tribal transportation program from the initial 2% to 4%. Funding for the overall tribal transportation program is increased and funded at $3.2 billion over four years, and safety is an eligibility.

Roadway Worker Protection Working Group
ATSSA worked on several amendments throughout committee markup.

Reps. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) introduced one amendment, with ATSSA’s strong support and cooperation, to direct the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to create a roadway worker protection working group. This working group was included in the final version of the legislation that passed out of the committee.

ATSSA’s Board of Directors has advocated for this working group as a way to bring together stakeholders to call attention to and find solutions for reducing work zone fatalities toward zero.

Highway Safety Improvement Program
Similar to the Senate EPW Committee-passed proposal, the INVEST in America Act increases funding for HSIP, albeit at a lower level than the Senate bill. Although final numbers are still being calculated, ATSSA’s best summation is that HSIP would be funded at approximately $15.9 billion over five years, compared to the $16.8 billion over five years in the Senate version. Two billion dollars of that HSIP total would be set aside for projects under the Biden administration’s Safe Streets for All program, focused on vision zero projects.

Similar to the Senate language, the Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee bill reinstates a state’s ability to move as much as 10% of HSIP funds to non-infrastructure safety programs, an ongoing concern for ATSSA.

Rural Road Safety
The INVEST in America Act stipulates that if a state’s rural road fatality rate exceeds the nation’s median rate during the most recent 2-year period, then that state must spend at least 7.5% of the state’s HSIP allocation on rural road safety projects. However, the funding for that increase would come from the Surface Transportation Program, not HSIP, so the safety funds would be additive rather than from the same safety funding source. In short, it would trigger additional roadway safety infrastructure spending.

Additionally, a new Rebuild Rural Bridges Program is created, funded at $1 billion over four years.

Highway-Railway Crossing
Under current law, funding for highway-railway crossing projects is a set-aside within HSIP. Under the INVEST in America Act, that funding is removed from HSIP and a standalone highway-railway crossing program is created, funded at $980 million over four years.

Work Zone Safety
The consolidated set of programs that includes the Work Zone Safety Grant, Operation Lifesaver and other programs, is continued and increased in funding by $2 million. Additionally, the proposed legislation also includes a safety contingency fund to ensure that the most cutting-edge and robust safety plans are in place for roadway work zones. Both the consolidated programs and the safety contingency are funded at 100% federal share, which is a win for the industry.

The proposal would direct the next update to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) to include updates for electric vehicle charging station signage and to ensure that a safe systems approach was utilized when setting speed limits. ATSSA and our partners successfully defeated an attempt to slow and stop the current revision of the MUTCD, which was attempted in both the Committee debate and on the House floor.

Wildlife Crossing
The INVEST in America Act would invest $400 million over four years on wildlife crossing safety countermeasures.

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