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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”:
- 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.
- People: It recognizes that transportation is primarily about people and connecting them to what they need.
- 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.
- Undo damage of “urban renewal”: Advances our proposal to start tearing down divisive infrastructure and repairing the damage
- Climate change: Recognizes that you must address climate change within the entire transportation program
- Access and equity: Measuring access to jobs and services is one of the best ways to address equity, but this bill includes others
- Rail: Support for expanded national passenger rail
- Transit: A strong commitment to transit…
- More Transit: … but with opportunities for greater improvements on transit
Here is a selection of reviews:
- Historic INVEST Act passes the House, Onwards to the Senate towards Transportation Reauthorization (T4America, July 7, 2021)
- Let’s shift gears to fix our crumbling infrastructure (U.S. PIRG, July 6, 2021)
- Congress needs to invest in green transportation (Lynn Peterson, Jessica Vega Pederson, Nafisa Fai, Portland Tribune, July 1, 2021)
- NACTO commends House leaders for passing the transformative INVEST in America Act (NACTO, July 1, 2021)
- INVEST Act passes: an overdue paradigm shift toward accomplishing measurable outcomes that prioritizes repair, safety, and access (T4America, July 1, 2021)
- Amendments we’re tracking to the House INVEST Act (T4America, June 30, 2021)
- INVEST Act vs. Campaign Priorities (National Campaign for Transit Justice, June XX, 2021)
- The INVEST in America Act: A Transformative Package of Strategic Investment in Climate Action and Equitable Recovery (NRDC, June 11, 2021)
- Active Transportation Big in ‘INVEST’ Earmarks (Streetsblog USA, June 11, 2021)
- Advocates Overjoyed with New and Improved INVEST Act (Streetsblog USA, June 11, 2021)
- House Transport Bill Sets Course for the Future (NRDC, June 10, 2021)
- House Panel Advances Fix-It-First, Carbon-Conscious Approach to Transportation (U.S. PIRG, June 10, 2021)
- House panel advances fix-it-first, carbon-conscious approach to transportation (Environment America, June 10, 2021)
- The INVEST in America Act of 2021 Is a Major Step Forward for Active Transportation (Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, June 10, 2021)
- Nine ways the House’s transportation proposal starts to make a “paradigm shift” (T4America, June 8, 2021)
- A Transportation Law for the 2050s, Not 1950s (Deron Lovaas, NRDC, June 8, 2021)
- Letter of Support (U.S. PIRG & Environment America, June 8, 2021)
- New House transportation bill goes 3 for 3 on T4America’s core principles (T4America, June 7, 2021)
- A Cheat Sheet for ‘Infrastructure Year’ (Streetsblog USA, June 7, 2021)
- House transportation proposal focuses on updating nation’s outdated transportation policy to get better results (T4America, June 4, 2021)
- Bold House Transport Bill Sets Innovative Course (NRDC, June 4, 2021)
- Earthjustice Statement on the INVEST in America Act (Earthjustice, June 4, 2021)
- APTA Lauds Chairman DeFazio and House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee for Introduction of Once-in-a-Generation Surface Transportation Authorization Bill (APTA, June 4, 2021)
- Now’s the Time for Bold Investments in Transportation (Deron Lovaas, NRDC, May 12, 2021)
- Why the INVEST Act is good for climate and business (March 16, 2021)
A few news stories and opposing views:
- “INVEST in America Act”—how it will improve safety and traffic for agriculture (RFDTV, 7/6/21)
- Transportation organizations applaud passage of INVEST act (Transportation Today, July 6, 2021)
- Industry Associations Applaud U.S. House Passage of Invest in America Act – Updated (Roads & Bridges, July 1, 2021)
- House passes its own $715 billion infrastructure bill (Axios, July 1, 2021)
- House passes surface transportation bill but the path forward is unclear (Politico, July 1, 2021)
- INVEST in America Act Is a Bad Investment (Iain Murray, National Review, June 30, 2021)
- WATCH: House Democrats hold briefing on INVEST in America Act (PBS, June 30, 2021)
- PODCAST: Rep. Peter DeFazio on the transportation talks (Beat Check with The Oregonian on Spotify, June 21, 2021)
- House Democrats Seek New $148B Shift to Trust Fund from General Fund (Engineering News-Record, June 21, 2021)
- Rep. DeFazio Previews US House Highway Bill (Transport Topics, June 21, 2021)
- US House Highway Bill to Reach Floor This Month (Transport Topics, June 21, 2021)
- America’s infrastructure needs work. But Democrats’ bill in Congress is a mess. (Thomas Aiello in Desert Sun, June 18, 2021)
- Rep. DeFazio to Highlight Road Congestion Remedies (Transport Topics, June 17, 2021)
- After 30 years, DeFazio sees chance to realize infrastructure dream (Roll Call, June 8, 2021)
- More than $1 billion in transit projects included in updated INVEST Act (Mass Transit, June 8, 2021)
- In massive House highway bill, climate is a common refrain (Roll Call, June 7, 2021)
- House T&I Committee intros $547 billion INVEST in America Act (Mass Transit, June 7, 2021)
- House Democrats propose $547B boost for highways, transit amid infrastructure talks (The Hill, June 4, 2021)
- House T&I Committee Introduces $547B Surface Transportation Bill (Metro Magazine, June 4. 2021)
- House Democrats unveil $547 billion transportation bill, a spending boost that highlights partisan divide (Washington Post, June 4, 2021)
- House Democrats announce infrastructure bill amid Biden negotiations (CBS, June 4, 2021)
- Back on the Rails: Rep. Peter DeFazio negotiated for funds to return Amtrak routes to pre-pandemic schedules and is now fighting for a larger transportation bill (Eugene Weekly, May 27, 2021)
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.
Here is a selection of official statements and resources from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Chair Peter DeFazio:
- Hoyer Statement on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Markup of H.R. 3684, the INVEST in America Act (Rep. Steny Hoyer, June 10, 2021)
- Chair DeFazio’s Statements
- Transportation and Infrastructure and Energy and Commerce Committee Leaders Applaud House Passage of the INVEST in America Act (July 1, 2021)
- Infrastructure Is Calling and America is Ready to Answer with the INVEST in America Act (June 29, 2021)
- Chair DeFazio Statement Before the Rules Committee on the INVEST in America Act (June 28, 2021)
- DeFazio and Pallone Share Details of $715 Billion Surface Transportation and Water Infrastructure Bill Heading to House Floor Next Week (June 24, 2021)
- Support for the INVEST in America Act Grows as Transformative Infrastructure Bill Advances Through Committee (June 10, 2021)
- After 19-Hour Markup, Committee Advances Two Major Pieces of Bipartisan Legislation to Modernize America’s Infrastructure, Create Jobs, and Restore U.S. Global Competitiveness (June 10, 2021)
- Chair DeFazio Opening Statement During Markup of the INVEST in America Act (June 9, 2021)
- INVEST in America’s impact on:
- EQUITY — How the INVEST in America Act Helps Build a More Just and Equitable Future (June 8, 2021)
- RURAL COMMUNITIES — The INVEST in America Act = Investments in Rural America (June 8, 2021)
- CLIMATE CHANGE — How the INVEST in America Act Tackles Climate Change and Puts the U.S. on a Path Toward a Zero-Emission Future (June 8, 2021)
- RAIL — The INVEST in America Act Makes Historic Investments to Upgrade and Expand Passenger Rail in the U.S. (June 8, 2021)
- Chair DeFazio Releases Updated Text of the INVEST in America Act That Now Includes Member Designated Projects (June 7, 2021)
- Chairs DeFazio, Norton, and Payne Introduce the INVEST in America Act to Create Millions of Jobs Bringing Our Infrastructure into the Modern Era (June 4, 2021)
- Learn by topic
- Fact sheet
- Thematic Summaries
- Section-by-section summary
- Text of bill
- Member designated projects (earmarks)
Transit Operations Funding
Although transportation advocates are overjoyed with the INVEST Act, they see a need for greater funding for transit operations:
- Q&A About Rep.Johnson’s Bill (National Campaign for Transit Justice?)
- Build transit back better with more trains, more buses, more frequency (T4America, June 10, 2021)
- Statement: House Bill Aims to Expand Public Transit Service Nationwide (U.S. PIRG, June 8, 2021)
- Stronger Communities through Better Transit Act (Citizens For Modern Transit, June 7, 2021)
- WEBINAR: Build Back Better with More Bus Service (NACTO, June 1, 2021)
- VIDEO (NACTO on Facebook)
- Why we need federal operations funding for public transit (T4America, May 13, 2021)
- Senators hone in on 80/20 split, transit operations funding at Banking hearing (T4America, April 22, 2021)
- Envisioning a Federal Program to Increase Transit Service (TransitCenter, April 19, 2021)
- Now is Our Opportunity to do Public Transit Differently (Rodney Slater in Newsweek, April 15, 2021)
- VIDEO: The Case for Federal Operations Support (TransitCenter on Vimeo, January 25. 2021)
- It’s time to fund public transportation and highways equally (T4America, November 12, 2020)
- What would a Green New Deal for transportation look like? (T4America, March 18, 2020)
- Voters want and need more transportation options (T4America, March 17, 2020)
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.
- Drivers may soon pay even more in federal taxes for transit (Washington Policy Center, June 21, 2021)
- To increase Metro’s ridership, we have to increase the service (Hilda Solis in Los Angeles Daily News, June 16, 2021)
- Hospitality Workers Struggle to Find Reliable, Affordable Ways Home: D.C. reopened its nightlife economy while Metro trains stop running at 11 p.m. and ride-share prices are soaring (Washington City Paper, May 24, 2021)
- The Holy Grail of Transportation Is Right in Front of Us: Better bus service would improve millions of Americans’ lives (Farhad Manjoo in NY Times, March 18, 2021)
- Congressman Johnson Proposes Transformational Public Transit Bill (Hank Johnson, June 8, 2021)
- To Build Back Better, We Need to Make Transformative Investments in America’s Transit Systems (Peter DeFazio, May 14, 2021)
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:
- Transportation reauthorization update: What we need to see (T4America, July 9, 2021)
- How to Get Racial Equity into Biden’s Infrastructure Plan (ShelterForce, July 1, 2021)
- The bipartisan infrastructure deal: What we know and don’t know (T4America, June 29, 2021)
- As Feds Debate Transportation Pay-Fors, Don’t Forget What We’re Buying (Streetsblog USA, June 25, 2021)
- Senate Commerce Committee proves that bipartisanship doesn’t have to equal terrible transportation policy (T4America, June 14, 2021)
- How both Democrats and Republicans alike traded away their principles for bipartisanship in the Senate’s transportation proposal (T4America, June 1, 2021)
- Not So FAST: Senate Transport Bill Causes Pileup for White House Climate Goals (Streetsblog USA, May 27, 2021)
- Release: Transportation for America on the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021 (T4America, May 26, 2021)
- 3 ways the Senate can pass bipartisan and effective transportation policy (T4America, May 25, 2021)
- The good, bad, and ugly in the Senate’s new transportation proposal (T4America, May 24, 2021)
- Statement on the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021(T4America, May 24, 2021)
- Senators hone in on 80/20 split, transit operations funding at Banking hearing (T4America, April 22, 2021)
- The Senate needs a new transportation bill—and over 120 elected officials and organizations agree (T4America, March 22, 2021)
A few news stories and opposing views:
- Democrats wrestle over control of the infrastructure throttle (Politico, July 9, 2021)
- Democrats race to push bipartisan infrastructure bill through Senate (Politico, July 7, 2021)
- Problem Solvers Caucus backs bipartisan infrastructure deal (The Hill, July 6, 2021)
- Bipartisan spending deal meets fresh resistance from key Democrats (The Hill, July 5, 2021)
- Which Biden priorities are not included in the bipartisan infrastructure deal? (Washington Post, July 1, 2021)
- Republicans Shouldn’t Sign on to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal (Rich Lowry, Politico, June 30, 2021)
- No wonder Republicans want to fight about ‘process’ (Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post, June 30, 2021)
- Biden wins on substance. So McConnell clings to process. (E.J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post, June 30, 2021)
- Biden shift reassures Republican senators on bipartisan infrastructure deal (Washington Post, June 27, 2021)
- Republicans back on board after Biden’s infrastructure clean-up (Politico, June 27, 2021)
- Biden reverses himself on infrastructure, says he would sign bipartisan deal (Washington Post, June 26, 2021)
- White House scrambles to manage fallout of Biden’s ‘tandem’ remarks (Politico, June 25, 2021)
- GOP infrastructure negotiators fume over Biden’s handling of their deal (Politico, June 25, 2021)
- Joe Biden basks in bipartisan glow, if but for a fleeting moment (Politico, June 25, 2021)
- What Democrats And Republicans Want When They Talk About Infrastructure (NPR, June 24, 2021)
- Infrastructure deal would boost investments in transportation, with infusions for rail and transit (Washington Post, June 24. 2021)
- ‘We Have A Deal’: Biden Announces A Bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement With Senators (NPR, June 24, 2021)
- Biden endorses Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure agreement (Politico, June 24, 2021)
- FACT SHEET: President Biden Announces Support for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (White House, June 24, 2021)
- Senators say a deal with the White House is in hand on infrastructure (Politico, June 23, 2021)
- Sure, This Bipartisan Bill Sucks. But It’s Bipartisan! (Esquire, June 22, 2021)
- Dems stuck in dual traffic jams on their ‘2-track’ infrastructure strategy (Politico, June 22, 2021)
- Congress prepares a punt on the Highway Trust Fund (Politico, June 21, 2021)
- Biden, Wyden object to raising gas tax to pay for infrastructure package (Oregonian, June 18, 2021)
- Democrats have turned solidly against gas tax (The Hill, June 18, 2021)
- Pelosi says she would not be open to gas tax expansion (Reuters, June 17, 2021)
- Associations Ask Schumer to Take Action on Surface Transportation Reauthorization (Roads & Bridges, June 16, 2021)
- Senate committee approves bipartisan $78 billion rail and transportation safety bill (Washington Post, June 16, 2021)
- Senate highway bill moves out of committee (Land Line, June 16, 2021)
- Ed Markey speaks out against bipartisan infrastructure deal: “We can’t leave the climate behind.” (Boston Globe, June 15, 2021)
- GOP Senators Rosy on Bipartisan Infrastructure Proposal (Bloomberg, June 15, 2021)
- Senate Commerce moves into the surface spotlight (Politico, June 14, 2021)
- Infrastructure talks enter last-ditch stage as both Republicans and Democrats eye gas-tax increase (Business Insider, June 10, 2021)
- Ready for another week of infrastructure negotiations? (June 7, 2021)
- Congress is moving on infrastructure. How will the White House react? (Politico, June 1, 2021)
- Senate surface transportation bill is out (Politico, May 24, 2021)
- Bipartisan Senate surface transportation draft proposes $304B for highways (Politico, May 22, 2021)
- Wyden, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Overhaul Energy Tax Code, Create Jobs, Combat Climate Crisis (Senate Finance Committee, April 21, 2021)