Resources for the INVEST in America Act … and other proposed federal transportation investments

By Rob Zako
June 13, 2021

As Streetsblog USA explains, President Biden and Congress are in the thick of negotiating two major infrastructure bills—and a constellation of smaller ones. One is a giant, one-time infrastructure stimulus package, President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, that will invest a ton of money in the nation’s transportation infrastructure (and other forms of “hard” and “soft” infrastructure); the other is a smaller (but still pretty huge) surface transportation reauthorization bill that sets the funding and rules for various ongoing U.S. Department of Transportation programs, specifically highways, transit and rail. America gets a new reauthorization bill roughly every five years, but a stimulus like the American Jobs Plan is once in a generation.

Here we focus on just three lines of effort:

  1. INVEST in America Act: This surface transportation reauthorization bill was introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), passed out of his Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and later in June will be voted on by the full House.
  2. Transit Operations Funding: In particular, a proposal by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Georgia) to additionally allocate $20 billion to increase transit service in urban and rural parts of the nation.
  3. Senate Efforts: A mishmash of different bills coming out of different Senate committees that together will constitute a counterproposal to DeFazio’s bill in the House, needing to be sorted out in a congressional conference committee.

INVEST in America Act

The Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America Act (INVEST in America Act; H.R. 3684) is a House surface transportation reauthorization bill. Key provisions include:

  • CLIMATE CHANGE: “Today, we face an existential threat: a changing climate that threatens our communities, our health, our economy, and our way of life,” Chair DeFazio said. “That is exactly why we need a game-changing approach to how we move people and goods in this country, and to start cutting carbon pollution from the transportation sector, the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.”
    • Establishes a new greenhouse gas performance measure.
    • Creates a new carbon pollution reduction apportionment program.
    • Provides record investment in transit; increases funding and incentives for transit-oriented development.
    • Invests $4 billion in electric vehicle charging and alternative fueling infrastructure; Invests over $4 billion in zero emission buses.
  • SAFETY & ACTIVE TRANSPORTATION: Active transportation has increased significantly over the last decade, but pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities also soared by almost 50 percent in that timeframe. The INVEST in America Act tackles this crisis with comprehensive policies to ensure safety is a top priority.
    • Strengthens performance measures by removing the ability to set regressive safety targets.
    • Ensures speed limits take safety into account.
    • Requires coordinated pedestrian and bicycle safety planning.
    • Significantly increases funding for pedestrian and bike infrastructure and complete streets.
    • Boosts highway safety funding by more than 50% over current law.
  • EQUITY & JUSTICE: “Too often, decisions around infrastructure have been made in a way that excluded, divided, and quite literally paved over low-income communities and communities of color,” Chair DeFazio said. “With the INVEST in America Act, we have a unique opportunity to take a fresh look at infrastructure that is aging out and, instead of merely perpetuating planning mistakes of the past, help reconnect neighborhoods and modernize our infrastructure for everyone, no matter how they get around.”
    • Adds additional planning considerations for accessibility and equity, including a holistic look at housing and land use policies, in both the statewide and metropolitan planning processes.
    • Requires the Secretary to consider whether projects serve persistent poverty communities in the Projects of National and Regional Significance program ($13 billion).
    • Creates a new $3 billion program to reconnect economically-disadvantaged and underserved neighborhoods that have been divided by arterial highways and other infrastructure.
    • Creates a new program to reduce transit deserts, improving access to jobs and essential destinations in communities that are unserved or underserved by transit.
  • REBUILDING RURAL AMERICA: “As someone who represents one of the largest congressional districts by area, comprised of many rural communities, I’m proud to bring the unique needs of smaller towns and cities to the forefront of our push to make transformative investments in our nation’s infrastructure,” said Chair DeFazio. “The fact is rural communities often don’t have the resources to fix roads and structurally deficient bridges, even though this infrastructure can be a critical link for residents, small businesses, and emergency vehicles.
    • Reforms the Surface Transportation Program to ensure that smaller cities and towns receive their fair share of highway funding.
    • Increases the High-Risk Rural Roads set-aside to direct more funding for crucial safety projects in rural communities.
    • Increases the off-system bridge set-aside, providing approximately $1 billion in annual investment in off-system bridges out of highway formulas to repair deficient and unsafe bridges in rural and small communities.
    • Increases funding for dedicated rural transit formula grants by 50%, supporting rural transit infrastructure; streamlines the process by which the Federal Transit Administration provides funds to rural and small communities, ensuring that they receive federal funds more quickly.
    • Boosts total tribal transportation funding to $1 billion per year in guaranteed investment, which will predominantly support rural areas.
  • JOBS & GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS: “These federal dollars mean good family-wage jobs that can’t be outsourced, and support for American manufacturing through the robust Buy America standards,“ said Chair DeFazio.
    • Invests $547 billion to rebuild and re-imagine America’s surface transportation infrastructure while boosting American manufacturing and creating millions of jobs.
    • Will be carried out by American workers and American ingenuity, thanks to strong Buy America requirements and labor protections, including Davis-Bacon wages.
    • Positions the U.S. to compete globally by strengthening manufacturing and creating good-paying jobs.


In general, transportation advocates are overjoyed with the INVEST Act. NRDC calls it a transportation law for the 2050s, not the 1950s The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy says it is Is a major step forward for active transportation, i.e., walking, bicycling and riding the bus. Transportation for America highlights nine ways the bill starts to make a “paradigm shift:

  1. Changes status quo: Avoids the Senate’s cardinal sin of creating small, new programs to fix mistakes actively being perpetuated by the larger, unchanged, status quo transportation program.
  2. People: It recognizes that transportation is primarily about people and connecting them to what they need.
  3. Maintenance, safety, access: Nails all three of T4America’s core principles: maintaining the current system, protecting the safety of people on the roads, and getting people to jobs, schools, groceries and health care.
  4. Undo damage of “urban renewal”: Advances our proposal to start tearing down divisive infrastructure and repairing the damage
  5. Climate change: Recognizes that you must address climate change within the entire transportation program
  6. Access and equity: Measuring access to jobs and services is one of the best ways to address equity, but this bill includes others
  7. Rail: Support for expanded national passenger rail
  8. Transit: A strong commitment to transit…
  9. More Transit: … but with opportunities for greater improvements on transit

Here is a selection of reviews:

Other Media

A few news stories and opposing views:

Legislative History

According to the Congressional Research Service, the five-year Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act; P.L. 114-94) authorized federal spending on highways and public transportation for FY2016–FY2020. On October 1, 2020, a one-year FAST Act extension, through September 30, 2021, was enacted as part of the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021, and other Extensions Act (P.L. 116-159).

Previously, on June 4, 2020, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) introduced an earlier version of the INVEST in America Act (H.R. 7095) — “INVEST 1.0.” But on June 11, 2020, DeFazio reintroduced the bill as part of the larger bill (Moving Forward Act; H.R. 2), a more than $1.5 trillion plan to rebuild American infrastructure—not only roads, bridges, and transit systems, but also schools, housing, broadband access, and so much more. On July 1, 2020, the Moving Forward Act passed in the House 233-188, but then was never taking up by the Senate.

On June 4, 2021, DeFazio introduced a stronger version of his INVEST in American Act (H.R. 3684) — “INVEST 2.0.” On June 10, 2021, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee referred the bill, with minor amendments, to the full House on a 34-26 vote.

The bill is likely to reach the floor of the House during the week of June 28. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had indicated the bill would pass the chamber prior to July 4.

Peter DeFazio / House T&I

Here is a selection of official statements and resources from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Chair Peter DeFazio:

Transit Operations Funding


Although transportation advocates are overjoyed with the INVEST Act, they see a need for greater funding for transit operations:

According to the National Campaign for Transit Justice, abundant transit unlocks freedom of movement. But good transit is very scarce in the U.S. today. Support transit that is equitable, sustainable, and affordable.

  • Pledge: Become a grassroots endorser of the Transit Justice Principles. Add your name today!
  • What We Want: The National Campaign for Transit Justice has identified a set of demands that we have an opportunity to pass at the federal level this year. It is an ambitious list of priorities that would transform our transit systems large and small. Taken together, these priorities would invest nearly $60 billion annually in new public transit funds for our communities. These measures, if adopted, would bring transit spending up to the level our highways are funding, modernizing our transportation priorities for the benefit of our communities, workers and local economies.
  • What We Have Won: The National Campaign for Transit Justice started in response to the emergency faced by public transit systems around the country. The pandemic and the resulting economic crisis pushed public transit around the country to the edge of disaster in 2020. We mobilize riders, transit workers, small businesses, and transit agencies to #SaveTransit. The campaign is working to save transit from the pandemic crisis and ensure just transit drives the future of the economy. So far, we and other transit advocates have helped win $69 billion in federal support from Congress to avoid fare hikes, service cuts, and shutdowns!
  • Transit Justice Principles
    • Equitable. America’s car-based transportation system erects barriers to mobility that reinforce long term social inequities. Transit investment must remove these barriers and prioritize the needs of Black and brown people, people with low incomes, and people with disabilities.
    • Sustainable. To avert severe climate change, models consistently show that some car trips must shift to transit. Transit investment must expand access to good bus and train service so transit ridership increases as a share of total travel.
    • Economically productive. Better transit expands worker access to jobs, employer access to the workforce, customer access to businesses, and business access to a customer base. Transit investment must make service more abundant, frequent, fast, and reliable to increase economic opportunity and productivity. Investing in better transit should also generate more good-paying jobs operating, maintaining, and supplying transit systems.
    • Safe and accessible. Many factors in addition to scarce service limit access to transit, including dangerous streets, discriminatory policing, and the lack of elevators at stations. Transit investment should eliminate the full range of limitations and achieve broad-based safety and universal access.
    • Affordable. Access to transit should never be contingent on one’s ability to pay. Transit investment should establish programs that provide fare relief for everyone who needs it.

Other Media

Hank Johnson / Peter DeFazio

Senate Efforts


In general, advocates are strongly criticizing Senate efforts to date. But to be signed into law, any major transportation effort will need to pass the Senate:

Other Media

A few news stories and opposing views: