In encouraging news for transportation construction, leaders of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee have reached a bipartisan agreement on a bill that would authorize $303.5 billion over five years for the federal highway program.
In unveiling the bill on May 22, committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), its top Republican, Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), and other key members said the panel is scheduled to vote on the measure on May 26.
The bill’s funding level represents a 34% increase over totals in the last multi-year highway authorization measure, the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation, or FAST, Act.
The highway legislation is expected to be the largest element of the multi-year surface transportation measure. Still to come are sections dealing with transit, highway safety and revenue, which fall under jurisdiction of other Senate committees.
The bill does not address the critical question of where to get revenue needed to meet its $303.5-billion funding. The Finance Committee, not Environment and Public Works, is responsible for revenue matters.
But the bill does authorize a national program to test a motor vehicle per-mile user fee.
Lawmakers face a looming deadline to act on the surface transportation measure. The current authorization, a FAST Act extension, expires Sept. 30.
The highway bill could move separately through Congress, or it might become a central element of a broader infrastructure package.
The White House and a group of Senate Republicans are negotiating the framework for that envisioned wider-ranging infrastructure legislation.
"We must reauthorize the surface transportation bill before its current authorization expires in September—it is a vital foundation for President Biden's American Jobs Plan," Carper said in a statement.