Transit, High-Speed Rail Get $20 Billion in Democratic Bill

  • Democrats’ new bill reflects transportation panel priorities
  • Ports, USPS electric vehicles would get funding

Democrats are sticking with their plan to spend billions on high-speed rail and transit near affordable housing under the latest iteration of their sweeping tax and social spending bill.

The transportation funds are included in draft text of a House bill (H.R. 5376), released Thursday, to implement President Joe Biden’s revised domestic agenda framework.

The legislation includes about $10 billion for high-speed rail and about $10 billion for a transit program to support access to affordable housing and improve mobility for riders in disadvantaged communities. Democrats and advocates pushed for the transit and high-speed rail money as a way of advancing their broader equity and climate goals.

The programs are similar to legislation approved by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said then that the money would “fix some of the issues” with the Senate’s $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill (H.R. 3684).

Climate Spending to ‘Fix’ Infrastructure Bill Advances in Panel

Photo: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg
Apartment buildings beside elevated train tracks in the Manhattanville neighborhood of New York on July 5, 2021.

Republicans in both chambers have argued against including transportation spending in both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and Democrats’ social spending and tax package, saying it violates a pledge from Biden not to “double-dip” in the two pieces of legislation.

Transit, Rail Backers Fight to Keep Funds in Biden Spending Bill

House Democrats said they drafted their legislation such that it wouldn’t overlap with the Senate’s infrastructure bill. Democratic leaders have suggested that elements of the bill could change before Biden signs it into law.

Walkability, Ports

The bill released Thursday includes about $4 billion for grants to projects that improve walkability, safety, or remove or retrofit existing infrastructure barriers.

Ports and maritime facilities would also receive funding, including about $600 million for projects that support “supply chain resilience, reduction in port congestion, and the development of offshore wind” as the U.S. faces a supply chain backlog.

There are also several climate-focused transportation programs in the bill, including a $3 billion program for carbon reduction project grants and $950 million for incentive grants for states that propose carbon reduction projects.

Lawmakers also included tax credits for clean energy vehicles, and $6 billion to electrify the U.S. Postal Service fleet.

The bill also includes $247 million for sustainable aviation fuel projects and would create a tax credit for such fuels, starting at $1.25 per gallon. The inclusion of the credit comes after lawmakers, sustainable fuel producers, and major airlines pushed for government help to buy greener fuel.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lillianna Byington in Washington at lbyington@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Sarah Babbage at sbabbage@bgov.com

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