The America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019 FAST Act Reauthorization
Highway Title ARTBA Summary Analysis
(Republished with permission from ARTBA)
The bipartisan leadership of the Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee July 29 introduced reauthorization legislation that for the first time in nearly 15 years would significantly increase investment in traditional core highway accounts and create several new initiatives and pilot programs. The nearly 470-page “America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (ATIA) of 2019” provides funding from FY 2021 through FY 2025.
The $287.3 billion in spending authority over the life of the bill would yield a $37.9 billion increase above the existing levels of highway investment, plus inflation. Specifically, the measure would increase highway investment by 17 percent in FY 2021, with modest increases in subsequent years.
To put this into context, the increase in annual average funding would be substantially higher than increases seen in the 2012 MAP 21 and 2015 FAST Act laws, as illustrated in the chart below.
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Senate EPW Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee Chairman Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Subcommittee Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md.), jointly introduced the legislation. The committee’s early action on the bill should be lauded as it represents a departure from the series of extensions and years of delay that plagued the last few reauthorization cycles. The current FAST Act surface transportation authorization law expires Sept. 30, 2020.
The committee’s leaders should also be applauded for their dedication to paying for the bill via user fees. Both Senators Barrasso and Carper have called for the users of the system to pay for the legislation and plan to work with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to achieve that goal.
Before the Finance Committee is likely to act, the Senate Banking & Commerce Committees will need to develop their respective components of the bill – transit programs (Banking) and truck safety and rail initiatives (Commerce).
The chart below provides a glimpse of the program structure senators envision under ATIA:
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Federal-aid Highway Formula Programs: These make up the bulk of the funding at $249.4 billion. This includes the National Highway Performance Program, Surface Transportation Block Grant Program, Highway Safety Improvement Program, Railway/Highway Grade Crossings, Congestion Mit- igation & Air Quality Program, Metropolitan Planning Program, National Highway Freight Program and the Transportation Alternatives Program. As of now, while apportionment formulas remain intact from the FAST Act, neither a programmatic or state-by-state breakdown has been released.
Freight Formula & INFRA Grants: The ATIA continues where the FAST Act left off by including substantial funding dedicated to freight improvements. The $13.93 billion over five years would include an overall seven percent investment boost for these programs from FY 2020 to FY 2021. It would expand eligibility for freight and intermodal rail projects to as much as 30 percent of the programs and makes lock, dam and marine highway projects eligible if they are connected to the National Highway Freight Network. The INFRA grant program has a set-aside of $500 million for “Critical Rural Interstate Projects.”
Bridge Investment Program: It would create a new bridge discretionary grant program, administered by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, to improve the nation’s bridge conditions by leveraging state, local and private funding sources, similar to the public transit New Starts program. Half of the $6.53 billion over five years comes from the Highway Trust Fund and the other half from the General Fund. One-quarter of the funding must be used on large projects (over $100 million).
The Transportation Infrastructure Finance & Innovation Act (TIFIA) Program: It provides federal credit assistance in the form of direct loans, loan guarantees, and standby lines of credit to finance surface transportation projects of national and regional significance. ATIA would continue TIFIA investments at $300 million annually but expand eligibility to certain airport and transit-oriented development projects, as well as acquisition of plant and wildlife habitat relating to other projects.
It would also require the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to provide most TIFIA applicants with “a specific estimate of the timeline for the approval or disapproval” of its application, preferably within 150 days of the submission of the letter of interest. Similarly, it would require the agency to establish an expedited decision timeline for public agency borrowers meeting certain criteria. To improve transparency of the process, ATIA would require U.S. DOT to post reports online recap- ping the status of applications and approvals. It would also allow the agency to spend up to $10 million per year to administer the TIFIA program starting in FY2021, compared to $8.4 million in FY 2020.
Public-Private Partnerships (P3s): To increase transparency relating to P3s undertaken to finance, build, and maintain or operate a surface transportation project, public agency sponsors would need to meet new requirements for each project with an estimated cost of $100 million or more that includes federal-aid dollars. Within three years of opening, the state or local agency would be required to provide U.S. DOT with the following:
1. A report reviewing the private partner’s compliance with the project’s agreement; and
2. Certification that the partner is meeting the terms of that agreement or notification that the partner failed to meet one or more of the terms.
The public agency would need to make this information publicly available, omitting any proprietary or confidential business information.
The bill would require a value-for-money analysis as a condition for federal assistance to certain P3 projects, including those considered “major projects” at an estimated cost of $500 million or more.
Project Delivery & Process Improvement: The measure would codify President Trump’s “One Federal Decision” Executive Order (EO). The EO, originally announced in 2017, was one of the administration’s central reforms to the project review and approval process. Specifically, “One Federal Decision” consolidates all permitting decisions for major infrastructure projects into one single environmental document with a schedule set by the federal “lead” agency. The aim is to reduce delay caused by having multiple agencies with conflicting schedules involved in the permitting process by requiring agency coordination and a single final document, as opposed to multiple decisions. ATIA would also codify “One Federal Decision’s” goal of completing the environmental review process within an average time of two years. Additionally, it would require all authorization decisions for a major project be completed within 90 days of the issuance of a record of decision.
ATIA reforms beyond “One Federal Decision” would include a requirement for U.S. DOT to produce an annual report detailing progress made on improving project delivery, such as savings and identification of problem areas. Further, U.S. DOT would be required to annually submit information to the Executive Director of the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (FPISC) regarding the median time elapsed between the intent to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for a major project and the issuance of a record of decision. This information would be made avail- able on FPISC’s “dashboard,” which tracks the permitting process for major projects.
Planning & Performance Management: ATIA would update the planning process by reducing existing “fiscal constraint” requirements for long-term transportation plans by eliminating the requirements for projects beyond a four-year time frame. Fiscal constraint requirements often complicate long-term planning because funding could not be predicted beyond the scope of the current re-authorization bill. Under ATIA’s reform, projects in a long-term plan beyond the four-year window would not be constrained by a requirement that they be completed with the level of funding currently available.
Climate Change: ATIA would introduce a variety of new programs and grants aimed at addressing climate change. Specifically, it would make funds available to develop charging stations for alternative fuel vehicles and to encourage electrification of port facilities and the reduction of truck idling. Additionally, ATIA would establish grant programs focused on making infrastructure more resilient, congestion management and encouraging carbon capture and sequestration technologies.
ARTBA staff will distribute further information as it becomes available, along with updates on progress of the reauthorization process in the coming months. Please contact ARTBA Senior Vice President of Congressional Relations, Dean Franks at email@example.com or 202.683.1006 with questions.