Posted on August 17, 2011 12:18 PM
Four New Bills Related to Reauthorization Effort
The two reauthorization bills recently proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate are not the only pieces of federal surface transportation legislation currently in Congress. The reauthorization process has inspired many proposals to reform federal transportation policy and finance, some of which may be incorporated into the final legislation -- such large bills cover much ground. This blog post profiles four Senate bills that are consistent with GO TO 2040 goals of supporting innovative financing mechanisms and emphasizing the maintenance and modernization of the existing transportation system.
Transportation and Regional Infrastructure Project Bonds (Wyden, D-OR; Hoeven, R-ND; Begich, D-AK)
This bipartisan bill would create a tax credit bond program to leverage additional investment in transportation infrastructure. More specifically, the bill would authorize state infrastructure banks to issue $50 billion in Transportation and Regional Infrastructure Project Bonds (TRIPs)over a six-year period to support transportation projects. The bond allowances would be distributed evenly among the states, and states could combine allowances to support projects of regional significance. TRIP bonds would require a 20-percent local contribution, ensuring the program attracts additional transportation investment. The principal would be repaid by $900 million in customs user fees deposited annually into a trust account and invested over the life of the bonds. Investors would receive federal tax credits in lieu of interest, which could be separated from the underlying bond, making TRIP bonds attractive to a wide range of investors.
Repaying and Protecting Taxpayers in Transportation Asset Transfers Act(Durbin, D-IL)
This legislation would attach a lien on major transportation assets that either received $25 million in federal funding or have a value of at least $500 million. These assets could not be leased or sold to a private party without the state or local government first repaying the depreciated value of the federal funds that were used to build, operate, and maintain the facility. Additionally, the parties would be required to meet transparency measures and increase public input through the process. Sen. Durbin argues that this bill provides needed oversight to public-private partnership agreements.
Lincoln Legacy Infrastructure Development Act (Kirk, R-IL)
This bill seeks to promote public-private partnerships by removing federal restrictions, allowing states greater flexibility to generate transportation revenues and enhance private capital investment in transportation. More specifically, the bill proposes to increase funding for innovative project finance mechanisms (including an expansion in Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act funds and a new Private-Public Partnership Challenge Grant program), removing the federal restriction on tolling the interstate system and encouraging greater private activity in transit, rail, and airport infrastructure.
Preservation and Renewal of Federal-Aid Highways Act (Cardin, D-MD)
Sen. Cardin’s bill, the Preservation and Renewal of Federal-Aid Highways Act, emphasizes maintenance of the existing transportation system. Under the Act, the Transportation Secretary would define standards for “good state of repair,” and states would be required to use an “Asset Management Process” to develop state plans and targets for the preservation and renewal of the transportation system. To further these ends, the Act would also combine several existing surface transportation programs into a new, flexible System Preservation and Renewal Program Fund.