After a 19-hour marathon markup and consideration of over 200 amendments, Chairman Peter DeFazio’s House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee advanced–on a primarily a Democratic-party-line vote–at about 5:00 am on July 10, H.R. 3684, the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act, a $547 billion, five-year surface transportation reauthorization bill. The legislation represents a $242 billion increase over baseline levels and an approximately 11 percent increase over the Moving Forward Act, which passed the House last year. The measure, which echoes priorities set forth in President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, provides $343 billion for roads, bridges, and safety; $109 billion for transit; and $95 billion for passenger and freight rail. This bill is slightly different from the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) unanimously passed bipartisan highway legislation, S.1931, the Surface Transportation Act of 2021 (STRA-21), $311 billion for highways over five years. You can review the attached draft matrix sheet comparing the two bills.

INVEST in America Act Highlights:

  • The bill has a heavy focus on climate and adaptation, and it features several new grant programs aimed at reducing carbon emissions and making the transportation system more resilient. These include: A new $4 billion discretionary grant program for funding EV charging infrastructure, a new $8.3 billion formula grant program for reducing carbon emissions, a new $6.2 billion pre-disaster mitigation formula grant program, and expanded eligibility within existing programs for constructing resilience projects.
  • The bill includes big funding increases for highway programs. Funding for these programs in year one of this bill jumps by 31 percent and increases steadily throughout the final four years of the bill.
  • Increases the percent of Surface Transportation Program (STP) funds that are sub-allocated based on population from 55 to 60 percent
  • A 27 percent funding increase for the Federal Lands Access Program. Unlike the Senate EPW bill, the INVEST in America Act does NOT include a provision the restoration in the Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) federal share of up to 100%—a long time priority of AOC and OACES.
  • A new Rebuild Rural Bridges Program funded at $1 B  
  • A new $12 billion Projects of National and Regional Significance discretionary grant program with a $4 billion set aside for the most economically significant bridges in the nation. This set aside is designed to fund bridges that are bi-state, multimodal, seismically resilient, and on high commute corridors.

Member Designated Projects (Earmarks):

For the first time in over a decade, the House T&I has been accepting Member Designated Projects (Earmarks) in the reauthorization bill. After yesterday, we finally have that final House list of approved projects totaling $5.7 billion nationally, with 20 Oregon projects at $79.36 million. You’ll notice there are no projects from Southern or Eastern Oregon on this list, that’s large because Congressman Cliff Bentz chose not to participate in the earmarking process this year. Keep in mind that this is the House’s list. The Senate still has not brought back reauthorization earmarks, so things could get interesting if these House and Senate reauthorization bills go to a conference committee. Here’s the list of House approved earmarks for Oregon:

H.R. 3684 (2021) Oregon Earmarks:Total: 79,360,000

1154 181st Safety Improvements Gresham OR 4,000,000
1155 82nd Avenue Safety Projects Portland OR 5,000,000
1156 Albany Transit Operations Facility Albany OR 1,563,978
1157 Beaverton Downtown Loop: Phase 1 Improvements Beaverton OR 4,000,000
1158 Benton Area Transit Vehicle Replacement Corvallis OR 528,000
1159 Corvallis Area Pedestrian Crossing Improvements Corvallis OR 880,000
1160 Georgia Pacific Mill Site Rail-Served Marine Terminal Coos Bay OR 4,500,000
1161 I–5: AuroraDonald Interchange Improvement Project Aurora OR 20,000,000
1162 Libby Lane Repaving Coos Bay OR 486,400
1163 LTD Electric Bus Replacement Eugene OR 1,844,322
1164 Main Avenue/ OR 104 Pedestrian Route Warrenton OR 1,360,000
1165 NW Circle Boulevard Reconstruction/Rehabilitation Corvallis OR 2,800,000
1166 OR18: Newberg-Dundee Bypass Phase 2 (OR219 Section) Newberg OR 8,000,000
1167 River Road— Santa Clara Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge Eugene OR 1,500,000
1168 Rose Lane / High Crash Corridor – Smart Tech and Safety Improvements – 122nd Portland OR 5,000,000
1169 Safety and Smart Technology Investments: Central City, Broadway Portland OR 4,000,000
1170 Siuslaw River Bridge Pedestrian and Bicycle Improvement Project Florence OR 897,300
1171 Territorial Highway Reconstruction Phase 3 Lane County OR 5,000,000
1172 TriMet Zero Emission Bus Infrastructure Portland OR 4,000,000
1173 Tualatin Valley Highway Safety Improvements Cornelius, Hillsboro, unincorporated Washington County OR 4,000,000

Nest Steps:

The House is expected to move the INVEST Act to the floor relatively quickly. We may see rail and transit titles surface in the Senate sometime in the next couple of weeks. This is all significant progress toward the reauthorization of the FAST Act, which expires on September 30, however, bringing together all of these moving pieces will be complicated and take some time. Also, there is still no credible plan to pay for any of these reauthorization bill ideas with the Highway Trust Fund becoming insolvent in FY 22. Recently a bipartisan group of ten senators came together on a $1 trillion dollar proposal with an option indexing the gas tax to inflation, which could make it a tough sell within the broader Senate Democratic caucus as President Biden has indicated he will not sign any bill with gas tax increases.

The AOC County Road Program worked with the AOC steering committee co-chairs and OACES President on a letter of support for the U.S. Senate’s Surface Transportation Act of 2021, which you can find attached. We also plan to send a priority letter for INVEST in America Act in the coming week. If you or your Board of Commissioners would like more materials for your own congressional advocacy, please let me know.

While more analysis will follow in the weeks ahead from NACo, NACE, OACES, and AOC, you can read the latest information and analysis from NACo’s Transportation Steering Committee HERE.