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News » US » House committee publishes nationwide infrastructure plan » published 25 Jul 2018

House committee publishes nationwide infrastructure plan

The chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee has published the draft of a plan intended to transform America’s infrastructure.

Bill Shuster has worked with Republican and Democratic colleagues, the administration and stakeholders on an infrastructure package aimed at meeting the challenges of a 21st century transportation system. 

Shuster released the legislative discussion draft this week. “The 2016 presidential campaign shined a spotlight on America’s crumbling infrastructure,” he said. “Since election day, the American people have waited for action by their federal elected representatives, and I am just as frustrated as they are that we have yet to seriously consider a responsible, thoughtful proposal.  That is why I have released a discussion draft that reflects input from Members on both sides of the aisle, as well as a broad group of infrastructure stakeholders interested in building a 21st century infrastructure for our country.

“This discussion draft does not represent a complete and final infrastructure bill.  It is meant to reignite discussions amongst my colleagues, and I urge all Members to be open-minded and willing to work together in considering real solutions that will give America the modern-day infrastructure it needs.

He added that, over the coming weeks and months, he looks forward to additional input from Republican and Democratic colleagues in order to prepare a bill for congressional consideration.

This discussion draft is intended to further the national conversation about the current state of America’s infrastructure and highlight some of the major roadblocks to funding and making improvements in the transportation network.

“Our constituents know how awful their roads and bridges have become,” said Shuster. “The current population is 328 million people, and we’re rapidly heading to 400 million. Commuting to work, going to the doctor’s office, and getting the kids to activities are taking Americans longer due to worsening road conditions and congestion. They expect Congress to act to improve our infrastructure.

“Yet, when Washington does attempt to address the issue, the bureaucratic red tape causes signifcant, costly delays. Complicated projects can take years and years to get through the overly burdensome permitting process.”

The provisions in Shuster’s proposals include:

Reforming the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) to addresses its short-term and long-term solvency of the and ultimately eliminate the federal gas and diesel taxes. The proposal creates a Highway Trust Fund Commission of experts to study how best to achieve the long-term solvency of the HTF and recommend a solution to Congress. The results of the Commission will take the form of a legislative recommendation that will be presented to Congress for a simple up-or-down vote. However, the Commission cannot propose to continue or adjust the gas and diesel taxes, said Shuster. An innovative solution must be proposed.

The proposal also establishes a national, voluntary pilot program to test the viability of replacing current HTF user fees with a per-mile user fee..

The proposal also recognizes that a number of surface transportation system users do not currently pay into the system, even though they beneft from it. “The proposal lays out a simple principle: if you are using the system in some manner, then you should help pay for it,” says Shuster.

Strengthening investment, with increased federal investment in infrastructure. The draft provides for direct federal investment in a broad array of transportation projects, including projects that use new innovations and technologies to transform the way goods and people are moved. It provides states with an additional year of certainty to plan and carry out critical highway and public transportation projects by extending the FAST Act through fiscal year 2021. It also reauthorizes and improves a number of water infrastructure and economic development programs. It also ensures that user fees paid into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund are fully spent to improve access to ports.

Utilizing innovative financing is addressed through a number of provisions designed to remove barriers to private investment and encourage private sector participation. It authorizes incentive grants to encourage public entities to lease their infrastructure to the private sector and then use both the funding from the lease and incentive grant to improve other public infrastructure. It also helps the federal government tackle its crumbing real property inventory by leveraging private sector dollars and expertise in the construction and rehabilitation of federal buildings.

Accelerating project delivery is also included in the proposal, through reform the environmental review and permitting process. Shuster said that this will accelerate delivery of critical transportation projects while protecting the environment. The plan is intended to ensure that the Department of Transportation can carry out the reforms and two-year permitting deadlines called for under the Administration’s One Federal Decision Executive Order. It authorizes the use of innovative practices and makes other administrative reforms at the Department to expedite the environmental review and permitting process for transportation projects. It is also designed to reduce what the Shuster describes as unreasonable delays in the water quality certification process under section 401 of the Clean Water Act.

“I hope this document prompts a more serious discussion about how, together, we can work to responsibly address our Nation’s infrastructure needs,” concluded Shuster.

 

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This article was published on 25 Jul 2018 (last updated on 27 Jul 2018).

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