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House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee passes surface transportation authorization proposal

Early this morning, the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee passed a five-year, $548 billion surface transportation authorization proposal out of committee, mostly on a party-line vote.

Two Republican members of the committee, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R-Puerto Rico), crossed over and voted with the Democrats. The legislation, named the INVEST in America Act, passed out of the committee after a marathon session that began Wednesday morning and finished around 5 a.m. today. Both Democrats and Republicans offered hundreds of amendments during the process.

This proposal includes funding titles for highways – including roadway safety infrastructure, bridges, transit and passenger and freight rail. By and large, the legislation and the process were derided as partisan by Republican committee members.

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 been advocating 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.

ATSSA successfully fought back two amendments related to changes to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The amendments, offered by Rep. Jesus Garcia (D-Ill.), would have stopped the current revision process and directed USDOT to start the revision process over again to address safety and equity concerns.

Garcia’s second amendment would have disallowed the use of the 85th percentile when setting speed limits. Although both amendments were withdrawn without a vote -- due in part to ATSSA’s opposition --  we will continue working to ensure these changes do not appear in the final House bill taken to the floor later this summer.

AV Infrastructure Investments
ATSSA supported an amendment by Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) that would have created a competitive grant program for infrastructure projects to assist in the further deployment of automated vehicles.

Although this amendment was ultimately withdrawn, work will continue in this area as the legislation moves to the House floor.

Highway Safety Improvement Program
Similar to the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee-passed proposal, the INVEST in America Act increases funding for the Highway Safety Improvement Program (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 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 fund are funded at 100% federal share, which is a win for the industry.

The proposal would direct the next update to the MUTCD to include updates for electric vehicle charging station signage and to ensure that a safe systems approach was utilized when setting speed limits.

Tribal Road Safety
Unlike the Senate proposal, the House bill does not include a specific roadway safety set aside for tribal transportation projects. However, funding for the overall tribal transportation program is increased and is funded at $3.2 billion over four years, and safety is an eligibility.

Although ATSSA was not successful in adding an additional set aside for tribal road safety investments, the association worked with Rep. Greg Stanton (D-Ariz.) to include this concern in his opening remarks. ATSSA will continue working with the committee on this issue as the package moves to the House floor.

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

Next Steps
After the T&I Committee voted to pass the bill out of committee, the legislation moves to the House floor for consideration, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) indicated will likely be before July 4. If this follows action from the last Congress, then this legislation will be packaged together with other infrastructure-related items on the House floor, creating a larger infrastructure package.

Stay tuned for additional details as the process moves forward.

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