House Releases Draft of American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act
On January 31, 2012, the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee announced its transportation reauthorization bill, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act (AEIJA), at an afternoon press conference. The Committee first released an outline of its proposal last July, which we reported on in this Policy Update. In a departure from last summer's proposal, the Act would maintain current funding levels for transportation programs for the next 4.5 years, tying part of the funding to an expansion in domestic oil and gas production. Total spending would be approximately $260 billion. The Act proposes to consolidate federal transportation programs, streamline the project review process, and promote greater private participation in transportation projects. It would also allow heavier trucks on the Interstate system.
Federal Transportation Programs
The Act would consolidate or eliminate approximately 70 federal transportation programs to reduce duplication and focus federal policy on the National Highway System. AEIJA would provide states with greater flexibility to use federal funds -- for example by eliminating dedicated Transportation Enhancements funding from the Surface Transportation Program -- but would hold states accountable for achieving performance targets.
Project Review Process
The Act would streamline the project review process, particularly the environmental review process. AEIJA would allow some activities to occur before environmental approvals are determined, expand the number of project considered to be categorical exclusions (which do not require environmental review), require concurrent reviews and set deadlines for approval, and take other actions to promote an efficient review process. The Act would also delegate more project approval authority to states.
Private Participation and Leveraging Existing Resources
The Act would encourage greater private participation in transportation finance, largely through an expansion in federal credit assistance program. The Act would increase funding for the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) to $1 billion annually, allow state set aside a larger proportion of federal funds to create and capitalize State Infrastructure Banks (SIBs), and make reforms to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and Rail Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) Program to better utilize these existing programs. Additionally, the Act would reduce regulatory barriers to private provision of transit services.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee plans to markup the bill on Thursday, February 2 at 8:00 a.m. CT; the session can be viewed on-line. From there the bill would need to be combined with a funding bill from the Ways and Means Committee and an energy bill from the Natural Resources Committee before being voted on by the full House of Representatives. The Natural Resources Committee will be holding a markup session on Wednesday, February 1 at P:00 a.m. CT, and the Ways and Means Committee is expected to hold a markup session on Friday, February 3. The full House is expected to take up transportation reauthorization the week of February 13. The Senate's transportation reauthorization bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), has yet to be combined with a funding bill from the Finance Committee and a transit bill from the Banking Committee before a full Senate vote. Both committees will be holding markup sessions: the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday, February 2 at 9:00 a.m. CT and the Senate Finance Committee at an as yet undetermined date. We will post a Policy Update on the Senate finance provisions once details become available; a post on the transit provisions is available here.
Although the Senate and House proposals both focus on streamlining federal programs, emphasizing innovative financing, and accelerated project delivery, there remain substantial differences on the length of the reauthorization and sources of funding. The two proposals will need to be reconciled and approved by both houses and President Obama before becoming law. The current federal transportation authorization expires on March 31, 2012.