Posts Tagged ‘infrastructure’

Biden Talks Infrastructure Plan With Senators

February 14, 2021

A recent meeting between President Joseph Biden and four U.S. Senators provided a preview of the challenges that lie ahead for efforts to approve an infrastructure plan this year.

The bi-partisan group of Senators agreed with Biden that improving infrastructure should be framed as a way to improve the competitiveness of the United States in the global economy, particularly in competition with China.

“If we don’t get moving, they’re [China] going to eat our lunch,” Biden told reporters during a post-meeting news conference.

Biden noted that China has made massive investments in its rail network, automobile manufacturing and renewable energy capabilities.

Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) agreed that the U.S. needs to revitalize its economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was very good, very good and one reason is that I’ve known the president forever, and we’ve worked together before,” Inhofe said.

At the same time, Inhofe said he would not support a plan that is a vehicle to reduce carbon emissions, something that Biden and many Democrats are sure to seek.

“A surface transportation reauthorization bill can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create jobs to strengthen our economy, and move us to a cleaner, safer future,” said Senator Tom Carper (D-Delaware) in a statement after the meeting.

Carper, who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said he was optimistic about reaching a bi-partisan consensus on an infrastructure bill. He said the current surface transportation authorization law expires on Sept. 30 and Congress doesn’t have time to waste.

House Aid Bill Has Some Transit Funding, But Omits Amtrak Funding, Infrastructure Boost

May 16, 2020

A $3 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that passed the House on a largely party line vote on Friday contained some funding for public transit systems but fell well short of what those agencies were seeking.

The legislation, which is opposed by Senate Republicans, also declined to include additional funding for Amtrak that the carrier had sought.

The American Public Transit Association had been seeking $23.8 billion but the House bill allocated just $15.75 billion for transit.

Amtrak had sought $1.63 billion but was shut out. That funding was in addition to the $2.04 billion Amtrak is seeking in its regular grant request for federal fiscal year 2021.

Also omitted from the bill was an infrastructure program that some have been seeking as a pay to kick start the economy.

The House bill, which was named the HEROES Act, is the fourth emergency pandemic funding bill taken up in Congress.

Congress Split on Adding Infrastructure Program to Future Pandemic Legislation

May 10, 2020

Congressional leaders in recent weeks have taken contrasting positions on whether an infrastructure program will become part of any future COVID-19 pandemic relief legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opposes combining the two, telling news reporters that he doesn’t want to borrow money from future generations to pay for an infrastructure plan because it’s unrelated to the pandemic.

He did say he has an interest in doing an infrastructure bill.

On the other hand, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio said addressing the infrastructure is a necessary component of addressing an economic recession that could turn into the next Great Depression without decisive action.

“[The] best way to re-start our economy and put workers first is with a massive investment in the kind of infrastructure that will help future generations succeed—from better bridges and roads, to robust transit and passenger rail service, to fully-functioning ports and harbors, to modernized waste and drinking water systems, and widely available broadband internet,” DeFazio said.

Infrastructure Funding Might be in Next Legislation to Address COVID-19 Pandemic

April 2, 2020

Congress is eyeing a fourth bill to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and it might address infrastructure funding.

President Donald Trump has signaled that he would support a $2 trillion infrastructure package as part of that legislation.

Other congressional leaders have also identified areas they would like to see funded but some observers think that whatever bill makes it through the House and Senate will be limited to health care matters.

Congress most recently approved a stimulus bill providing $2.2 trillion in funding, which is several hundred billion dollars more than the federal budget for one fiscal year.

Lawmakers are hoping that the stimulus bill will benefit the economy by as much as an additional $4 trillion.

The $1.018 billion that the stimulus bill provided for Amtrak was intended in part to limit the funding states must pay for services they support.

In an unrelated development, the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners reported that several moves of private cars via Amtrak that had been planned in March were canceled by their owners as a result of the pandemic.

AAPRCO also posted its mid-term meeting from March 23 to late July.

House Members Outline Infrastructure Proposal

February 3, 2020

House Democrats in Congress last week issued the framework of a five-year, $760 billion proposal to address infrastructure needs, including those related to rail.

The proposal, known as Moving America and the Environment Forward, was said to address a massive infrastructure maintenance backlog and undertake projects that a news release described as “smarter, safer and made to last.”

The $434 billion includes $105 billion for public transit and $55 billion for passenger rail.

Future details are expected to be announced over the coming months.
A statement by a Republican member of Congress, Sam Graves, said Republicans are looking forward to a bipartisan effort.

Graves issues his own statement that Republicans will focus on development of a surface transportation reauthorization bill that addresses the long-term sustainability of the Highway Trust Fund.

He said any serious effort toward enacting infrastructure legislation must incorporate Republican principles as well.

House Democrats May be Planning Infrastructure Bill

January 18, 2020

House Democrats have signaled that they plan to release an infrastructure bill next week but it is unclear if they are on the verge of also revealing details about their planned surface transportation proposal.

In a meeting with news reporters, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi avoided providing any details of the bill and what she did say appeared to reference a surface transportation proposal.

It may be that Democrats will package an infrastructure plan with the surface transportation bill but they might also present it as a stand-alone program.

The Rail Passengers Association said Pelosi’s comments could have been referring to as many as three separate pieces of legislation.

Efforts to date by Congress and the Trump administration to reach agreement on an infrastructure program largely have failed.

It may be that the Democratic infrastructure proposal will include transportation among such things as water and sewer projects, power transmission systems and municipal facilities.

Talks to Resume on Infrastructure Plan

May 19, 2019

Talks between Congress and the Trump administration over a proposed $2 trillion infrastructure plan are expected to resume on May 22.

The session is expected to include President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

The trio had announced the infrastructure proposal following an April 30 meeting. However, Republican Congressional leaders have reacted coolly toward the plan with some questioning where the funding would come from.

One proposal has been an increase in the federal gasoline tax, but GOP leaders have signaled they won’t support that.

Some in Congress on sides of the aisle have expressed skepticism that there is enough time to get a bill approved before the end of July.

“It’s premature for me to think we’re going to get something on the floor until we have something to get on the floor, and we haven’t gotten there yet,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said. “It would be unrealistic to expect next week, one meeting everybody agrees.”

Trying Again for an Infrastructure Plan

May 1, 2019

The Trump administration and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have reached an agreement in theory about at $2 trillion infrastructure plan.

However, the sides have yet to agree on how that plan would be funded. The agreement announced this week said Congress and the administration will work toward winking approval of the transportation infrastructure package.
Congressional leaders and President Trump plan to meet at an undisclosed time to discuss the administration’s ideas for paying for the infrastructure plan.

The administration released an infrastructure plan more than a year ago that won little support in Congress.

Critics noted that that plan relied heavily on state and local governments funding much of it.

Infrastructure Plan Might be Out by May

March 15, 2019

If its members can agree on funding, the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee might report an infrastructure bill by May.

 “I know May is probably a little ambitious, but that’s our goal,” said Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Illinois, the ranking member of the subcommittee on highways and transit.

Among the funding options committee members are eying are raising the gas tax and a new vehicle-miles traveled tax to capture revenue from electric vehicles.

Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-California, has suggested creation of a federal infrastructure bank “that will provide low interest loans to states and municipalities so that they can build.”

Aside from agreement on funding, another source of delay could be work on reauthorizing the FAST Act, which expires in 2020.

Some believe that getting that reauthorization as well as an infrastructure plan through Congress in the current session of Congress could be a tall order.

If the infrastructure bill is completed by May the odds increase that both pieces of legislation could be addressed separately.

New Congress, Old Priorities for Rail Industry

February 12, 2019

It may be a new Congress, but the railroad industry is continuing to push old priorities in Washington.

An analysis by Progressive Railroading magazine said among the priorities are a permanent extension of the 45G short-line tax credit, keeping existing truck size and weight restrictions, and approval of an infrastructure package that includes funding priority for freight and passenger rail.

How much the industry is able to get done is an open question given that the House is controlled by Democrats and the Senate by Republicans.

Some railroad industry lobbyists say an environment of hyper partisanship combined with hard feelings lingering from the recent 35-day federal government shutdown will make it a challenge to create agreement on transportation policy.

Yet some are optimistic that an infrastructure plan might be a rare example of bi-partisan agreement, in part by trying to portray it as good for urban and rural communities.

The Rail Passengers Association is seeking to prod Congress into address the on-time woes of Amtrak trains by creating a a charter for a Shared-Use Corridor Advisory Committee to develop new “mutually satisfactory solutions” on Amtrak’s shared use of rail routes with its host railroads.

The committee would be similar to the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee and use a collaborative approach to find mutually agreeable solutions to safety regulatory issues.

Although most of industry’s legislative priorities have been around awhile, some new matters the industry is overseeing include discussing the potential regulation of precision scheduled railroading and automation.

“A huge amount of education is needed,” said Chuck Baker, the new president of the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.

“A lot of these new members are interested in infrastructure, so we think we’ll have a friendly playing field,” he said.

The Association of American Railroads expects the trucking industry to again seek to get Congress to increase the weight and size limit of trucks.

AAR is calling for what it termed “reasonable” limits on truck size on interstate highways of 80,000 pounds in weight and no more than two 28-foot trailers in total length.

The trucking industry has been seeking to increase these limits through the use of pilot programs to test larger trucks.

The rail industry fears that these programs could lead to higher limits being made permanent at the national level.

An infrastructure program, though, lies at the top of legislative priorities.

Railroad interests are hoping for an infrastructure package coupled with reauthorization of the

Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015, which is set to expire in September 2020.

The reauthorization is expected to include funding for Amtrak and the Gateway/Hudson River tunnel projects in New York.

Lawmakers are also expected to debate funding of the Highway Trust Fund and its Mass Transit Account with those discussions focused in part on whether to increase the federal tax on gasoline that motorists pay at the pump.

Other funding alternatives for the HTF that are expected to be discussed include a general sales tax, a vehicle miles traveled fee and a per-barrel tax on crude oil.

Jim Mathews, president of RPA, said his group wants Congress to look at a variety of funding options, including a passenger-rail trust fund. “We think it’s about time that we had a predictable, dedicated source of funding for passenger rail,” he said.