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Congress Approves Five-Year Transportation Bill

December 4, 2015
The U.S. House and Senate announced an agreement this week on a five-year, $305 billion transportation authorization.
 
Both the House and Senate overwhelmingly voted on Thursday to approve the deal.

The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act will increase highway spending by 15 percent and transit spending by 18 percent. The 1,300 page bill includes several provisions California cities have been watching:
  • Provides about $200 million for positive train control;
  • Requires Class I Railroads to provide crude oil movement information to emergency responders;
  • Restructures funding for freight programs by establishing two new programs — one formula and one competitive grant;
  • Continues the set-aside for off-system bridges, and expands funding for on-system bridges.
  • Converts the Surface Transportation Program (STP) to a block grant program and increases the local share from 50 percent to 55 percent;
  • Rolls the Transportation Alternatives Program into the STP;
  • Expands eligibility requirements for the Transportation Infrastructure Finance & Innovation Act (TIFIA), and allows STP, National Highway Performance Programs, and Nationally Significant Freight and Highways Projects funds to be used for the subsidy and administrative cost requirements of the program;
  • Expands NEPA delegation authority to five states; and
  • Includes additional transparency requirements for the Department of Transportation. 
While the bill provides additional funding, it does not solve the ongoing problem of how to fix the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund. The federal gas tax has traditionally funded transportation. However, similar to the problems California is facing as a state, the federal gas tax can no longer meet the needs of the system. Instead, the FAST Act will be funded by a variety of other revenue-raising provisions such as reducing the amount the Federal Reserve pays large banks in dividends. 
 
Congress has struggled to find a compromise that will end the constant need for temporary extensions and threats of shutting down transportation programs. The last major bill, MAP-21, was approved in 2012 and was set to expire in September 2014. The bill has received multiple short-term extensions over the past year to keep transportation programs running. 
 
The bill language, summary and Joint Explanatory Statement of the Committee of the Conference are available from the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.


 
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