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Senate EPW Committee Passes Highway Bill; APTA 'Loans to Lenders' Proposal Included

The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee approved on Thursday, May 15, a six-year highway reauthorization bill by voice vote, which it then sent to the full Senate.

The bill includes a modified version of APTA’s TIFIA loans-to-lenders proposal, which would permit DOT to set aside 10 percent of TIFIA funding to capitalize state infrastructure banks, which would reloan the funds to smaller highway and transit project sponsors. (For details about APTA’s other proposals, click here.) 

The EPW bill maintains current funding levels plus inflation and maintains the program reforms passed two years ago in MAP-21. Specifically, the bill’s funding of $261.4 billion, combined with authorized General Fund appropriations totaling $3 billion, authorizes nearly $265 billion for federal-aid highway programs.

The EPW bill includes some provisions relevant to public transportation. A few are summarized below:

• It authorizes several multimodal programs, including the TIFIA loan program. TIFIA funding would be reduced by $250 million annually and redirected to FHWA research programs, including University Transportation Centers, resulting in an annual authorization of $750 million for TIFIA. There are several other changes to TIFIA, including expanded eligibility for joint development improvements.

• It permits alternative fuel vehicles to use HOV lanes.

• The bill establishes a process to automatically reduce the obligation limitation on the federal aid highway program to maintain a minimum balance in the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund of $2 billion at the end of the fiscal year to which the limitation applies or of $1 billion at the end of the following fiscal year.

The EPW Committee has jurisdiction over the highway portion of the surface transportation reauthorization effort, so full reauthorization awaits action from the Senate Finance Committee (which must determine how to pay for the bill), the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs (which oversees public transportation), and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation (which oversees federal rail and highway safety programs).

For details, go to APTA's Legislative Alerts.
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