The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I) unanimously approved the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform (STRR) Act of 2015 (H.R. 3763), a bipartisan, multi-year surface transportation bill to reauthorize and reform federal highway, transit and highway safety programs.
The STRR Act helps improve the Nation’s surface transportation infrastructure, reforms programs and refocuses those programs on addressing national priorities, maintains a strong commitment to safety, and promotes innovation to make the system and programs work better, according to the committee’s press release.
The proposal provides greater flexibility and more certainty for states and local governments to address their priorities and accelerates project delivery. The bill also extends the deadline for U.S. railroads to implement positive train control technology.
“The Committee’s overwhelming approval of the STRR Act today is a positive step forward for our Nation’s transportation system and our economy,” said T&I Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA). “I look forward to House action on the bill and going to conference with the Senate as soon as possible.”
The bill authorizes $325 billion in transportation funding over the next six years, and would fund the nation’s Highway Trust Fund and Mass Transit accounts. Roughly 17%, or $55 billion, will go to public transit, with 3%, or $9 billion, going to safety programs and the bulk to highways.
According to the United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) it is anticipated that the House will only provide funding for the first three years, requiring Congress to identify a new source of funding at the end of 2018.
“While it’s great the House is making progress towards a long-term plan for funding our nation’s infrastructure, this bill, as it currently stands, still falls short of offering the American public a sustainable solution to funding our transportation needs,” said John Olivieri, U.S. PIRG’s national campaign director, 21stCentury Transportation.
Currently, transportation funding receives approximately $50 billion in annual support, yet gas tax revenues account for only $34 billion, leaving a roughly $16 billion annual shortfall. Congress has been reluctant to raise the federal gas tax, but has so far been unable to identify a sustainable funding stream.
“When it comes to transportation, our nation needs at least two things; more funding for critical transportation infrastructure needs, particularly with regard to public transit, and a commitment to reforming our broken transportation system, so that it provides a long-term sustainable funding mechanism. This bill, so far, does neither,” said Olivieri. “Beyond that, it is also important that we give local communities more control over transportation dollars, which is critical to meeting their specific needs. Whether it is repair of local roads, increasing the reach of transit, or making streets safer for biking and walking, it is important these needs are met.”