Surface TransportationThe U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works unanimously approved the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021 on Wednesday. The five-year, $303.5-billion bill, which represents an increase of about 34 percent over the levels in the last multi-year highway legislation, is a major priority for AEM.

AEM has called on lawmakers to reauthorize federal highway construction and safety programs prior to their Sept. 30, 2021 expiration in order to provide the federal commitment needed to allow state and local government to move forward with the planning and construction of modern, resilient surface transportation.  

In advance of the hearing, AEM sent a letter of support to U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Committee, respectively. In the letter, AEM commended the Committee for the bipartisan process that lead to the development of the legislation and expressed support for several policy priorities developed and pursued by AEM over the past several months.  

AEM worked closely with Democrats and Republicans on the Committee to ensure that the bill included several key provisions important to the equipment manufacturing industry. Notably, the bipartisan measure:  

  • Sets historic funding levels  
  • Provides $77 billion more over five years than the 2015 FAST Act (a 34 percent increase)  
  • Streamlines the permitting process for infrastructure projects  
  • Codifies One Federal Decision to ensure that project delivery approvals are streamlined 
  • Provides specific support for rural transportation needs 
  • Increases focus within the U.S. Department of Transportation 
  • Establishes a rural surface transportation grant program 
  • Includes support for infrastructure-focused workforce development training and education 
  • Provides funding for the accelerated adoption and deployment of digital construction technologies 
  • Establishes a pilot program for a national motor vehicle per-mile user fee (VMT) 

The vote by the Committee on Environment and Public Works is an important step in the process to reauthorize the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which was given a one-year extension in 2020 and is set to expire again at the end of September. The FAST Act provided predictable and consistent funding for federal programs over five years, and the new bill would extend that much-needed funding for another five years. 

The bill could move as a stand-alone legislation, but it might also be part of the more sweeping infrastructure measure that is currently being negotiated by the Biden administration and Republicans in Congress. The prospects for a bipartisan agreement on a broader, multi-sector infrastructure package remain uncertain. During Wednesday’s hearing, Senator Capito, who has been leading negotiations for Senate Republicans with the White House, referred to the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021 as the “anchor to those bipartisan discussions.” At the time of the hearing, Senate Republicans were readying a counterproposal for the White House to review. 

The work on federal surface transportation reauthorization continues in the Senate, as the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and the Committee on Finance begin work on their parts of the bill. AEM is closely engaged in the discussions between Democrats and Republicans on the Committee about how to pay for transportation infrastructure. The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure is scheduled to begin marking up its bill the week of June 9. 

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