(Updates throughout to include additional reporting.)
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President Joe Biden’s signature infrastructure law would be fully funded after months of delay under a spending bill unveiled early Wednesday.
New programs would be allowed to get off the ground and increased funding levels for this fiscal year authorized by the recent infrastructure law would be able to be deployed under the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development spending portion of the package.
The measure “Fully implements the historic investments in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” according a summary of the package (H.R. 2471) released by the House Appropriations Committee. Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), chair of the House Transportation-HUD Subcommittee, said the bill would unlock new programs and contract authority to allow for higher spending from the infrastructure law while also providing annual increases.
“The incremental increases in all transportation accounts that we’ve been hacking away at for years now—apart from the infrastructure law, the new bill—those are intact as well,” Price said in an interview.
A House vote on the bill planned for Wednesday was delayed as some Democrats pushed back on cuts to state and local aid elsewhere in the bill. That language is set to be removed, allowing the vote to proceed.
Under the deal, the Transportation Department would receive $102.9 billion in budgetary resources, which includes regular appropriations and money drawn from transportation trust funds, $16.2 billion more than in fiscal 2021.
The bill would provide $57.5 billion for the Federal Highway Administration’s formula programs, which were reauthorized in the infrastructure law, as well as $16.3 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, a $3.3 billion increase.
Lawmakers and transportation officials have been warning for months that full implementation of the infrastructure law (Public Law 117-58), which was enacted in November, isn’t possible because government funding is constrained at last year’s levels.
The department has limited power to kick off new programs, such as the carbon reduction program authorized in the infrastructure law, under stopgap funding measures.
The Transportation Department is “doing everything that we can, of course, within the constraints that currently exist,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told senators at a hearing last week. He said he appreciates the urgency from lawmakers to have the appropriation needed for the infrastructure law.
The omnibus comes after a series of stopgap bills.
“It’s not good to have this kind of cliffhanger of a process six months into the fiscal year, it’s not the right way to appropriate,” Price said.
‘Lower Transportation Emissions’
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), chair of the Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee, lauded the bill’s emissions reduction provisions.
The measure “makes record investments” to “lower transportation emissions to protect our planet, and make our roads more resilient and safer for pedestrians,” he said in a statement.
The bill would provide about $1.2 billion for the Transportation Department’s new carbon reduction program. It also encourages the Federal Highway Administration to continue developing low-carbon materials that reduce emissions for infrastructure.
Spending on passenger and freight rail would be boosted in the proposal with $3.3 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration, a $505 million increase from fiscal 2021.
Amtrak would receive $2.3 billion. Of those funds, the measure would provide $874.5 million for grants to the Northeast Corridor, which means it would be fully funded at levels authorized in the infrastructure law when combined with other monies, according to the joint explanatory statement for the bill.
Earmarked projects are also back in the spending bill for the first time in a decade, with more than 145 House lawmakers and 62 senators securing transportation projects they requested. Approved projects range from airport repair and road expansion to sidewalk improvements and an electric vehicle ferry pilot program.
The bill also includes funds and directives to push for more research on automated vehicles, including $5 million for the Highly Automated Systems Safety Center of Excellence and $10 million for a university to work with rural communities on automated vehicles. It would also direct the FHWA to set goals for the testing and deployment of AVs on highways and for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to work on a research program on the “kinetics and injury outcomes” of passengers in automated vehicles, according to the joint explanatory statement.
To contact the reporter on this story: Lillianna Byington in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org