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February 28, 2019

Congressional Transportation Leaders Optimistic About Passing Infrastructure Program

At the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) 2019 Washington Briefing this week, House and Senate transportation committee leaders said all funding options are on the table for delivering a new transportation infrastructure bill this year.


U.S Representative Pete DeFazio (D-OR) who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee, has set a May deadline to get a bill out of his committee. DeFazio supports a transition to a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) fee, and said that the bill will include a national VMT pilot program. He also said he supports the return of earmarks, as a way to boost bipartisan support for an infrastructure bill.


“Why does an unelected bureaucrat get to decide who gets [transportation] grant money?" asked DeFazio, who will be featured in the upcoming March/April issue of Engineering Inc. magazine. "Why not allow elected representatives to bring some of that back to their districts to show their constituents what they are getting for their gas taxes. I think this is key to getting this done – and I aim to bring back earmarks.” 


Congressman Sam Graves (R-MO), ranking member on the T&I Committee, said there's "a lot of support" for passing a bill this year, but added “The hard part will be figuring out how to pay for it — will this just be a straight [Fixing American’s Surface Transportation] reauthorization bill or a much broader infrastructure bill? Hopefully it will fall somewhere in between.”


Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee,  expressed concerns over the impact of falling gas tax revenue, but added, "“We need to maintain reliable formula funding; it’s what protects long-term planning so we can build [transportation infrastructure] better, faster, cheaper, and smarter.”  He highlighted the need to streamline environmental reviews to get project permits approved more efficiently.


Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), the ranking member on the Senate EPW Committee said, “We spent $13 billion last year above what the [highway] transportation fund provided, yet we still aren’t spending enough. We need $800 billion worth of infrastructure investments by some estimates to get us where we need to be.”


To read a full report of the session, click here.

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