Posts Tagged ‘infrastructure’

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.

Poll Supports Infrastructure Legislation

February 7, 2019

Americans want to see bi-partisan cooperation to approve broad infrastructure legislation, the American Public Transportation Association said.

APTA cited the results of a poll conducted Jan. 23-24 by Rasmussen Reports for APTA and the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.

In a news release, APTA said 88 percent of Republican and Democratic likely voters and 84 percent of those not aligned with either party who responded to the survey supported a bipartisan infrastructure bill.

The poll found that 96 percent of those surveyed agreed improving infrastructure such as roads, bridges, public transit, water systems and the power grid is either “very important” or “somewhat important” to both future U.S. economic growth and quality of life.

Infrastructure Plan Being Talked About Again

December 10, 2018

Since Democrats won control of the House of Representatives in the November 2016 election, rumors and speculation have abounded about another attempt to pass an infrastructure stimulus program.

The Rail Passengers Association reported last week that the Democratic takeover of the house might lead to a bipartisan agreement with the Trump Administration.

The administration floated a plan early this year would have required cities and states to provide at least 80 percent of the funding for infrastructure projects, but that plan failed to gain traction in Congress.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), who is expected to become the next chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee, reportedly has told the administration that any infrastructure plan must  have “ . . . real money, real investment … [and] it needs to be done soon… This isn’t going to get done without support from the president.”

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is chair of an appropriations subcommittee that helps set funding levels for existing federal programs for roads, bridges and railroads expressed a similar sentiment, saying she is open to striking a deal.

An unnamed source said President Donald Trump is considering spending “buckets of money” on an infrastructure plan in advance of the 2020 election, which suggests he might be willing to strike a deal with House Democrats.

Shuster Releases Infrastructure Plan

July 25, 2018

The chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has introduced an infrastructure plan that would be paid for in part by an increase in fuel taxes.

Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania) said his plan would result in significant federal investment in infrastructure projects and grant programs at least through 2021 and also bolster the sagging Highway Trust Fund.

The plan would raise federal user fees on gasoline and diesel fuel by 15 cents per gallon and 20 cents per gallon, respectively with the tax hikes phased in over three years.

Once the phase-in is completed, the user fees would be indexed to inflation, then zeroed out in 2028.

As a way of reforming the highway trust fund, Shuster wants to see the creation of a panel of experts to study and recommend solutions to ensure the fund’s long-term solvency.

Shuster’s plan also would establish a national, voluntary pilot program to test the viability of replacing current HTF user fees with a per-mile user fee.

Legislation reflecting the plan will be introduced in the coming weeks and months.

Shuster said he developed his proposal in consultation with members of both major political parties.

“This discussion draft does not represent a complete and final infrastructure bill,” Shuster said in a statement. “It is meant to reignite discussions amongst my colleagues.

Gas Tax Hike Idea Dividing Public

February 28, 2018

The prospect of raising the federal gasoline tax has drawn mixed reviews, the Quinnipiac University poll found.

Although 46 percent think it is a good idea, 44 percent think it is a bad one. Unlike many policy proposals, there is no sharp partisan split.

Forty-eight percent of Republicans, 49 percent of Democrats and 46 percent of independents believe raising the gas tax helpful in paying for infrastructure projects involving railroads, bridges and roads.

Congress last increased the gasoline tax in the 1993 and some have been floating the idea of increasing it again.

The Quinnipiac poll was conducted from February 16-19 and surveyed 1,249 voters. The survey has a 3.4-percentage-point margin of error.