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11.03 / 11.09

Formula Funding the Basis for Senate's Surface Transportation Bill

Committee Aides Say Most Substantial Highway Bill in History

Formula Funding the Basis for Senate's Surface Transportation Bill

Lawmakers say the surface transportation bill would codify tenants of the "One Federal Decision" project-streamlining policy, which seeks to eliminate duplication in federal permitting processes and sets a goal of two-years for completing all environmental reviews and authorization decisions for major infrastructure projects.

The surface transportation reauthorization bill, which is expected to be formally unveiled this week by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, would appropriate $287 billion for highway infrastructure over the next five years - marking a 28 percent increase over current spending levels with nearly 90 percent or $259 billion distributed to states through the traditional formula-funding process.

Politico Magazine has reported that the bill would also address climate change both by authorizing new "formula-based and discretionary grant programs to begin to reduce transportation-related emissions" and establishing a program "to support projects that will improve the resiliency of roads and bridges to natural disasters and extreme weather events."

"We...are working to pass a five-year highway infrastructure bill to fix our roads, our bridges, and our highways," said Sen. John Barraso, R-Wyo.

"That means maintaining each state's share of highway formula funding [as] formula funding gives each state the flexibility they need to address their specific surface transportation needs," he added. "Maintaining the federal highway program's current approach of distributing over 90 percent of the funds to the states by formula is the key to this. It is a proven approach that works for everyone and should be continued."

Carlos Braceras, executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation and 2018-2019 president for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials called formula-funding the "heart and soul" of the Federal-aid highway program.

"The formula-based program framework built the Interstate Highway System and the National Highway System, the backbone of our national network of roads and bridges that drives our national economy," Braceras said.

In a 32-page report recently released by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, the author stated, "Federal resources consistently support more than half of all annual state highway and bridge capital expenditures."

"A dependable and robust [transportation] revenue foundation must be established to support needed improvements to aging and neglected infrastructure facilities ... resources complemented and optimized by building on several recent federal policy reforms to advance new regulatory efficiencies, outcome-focused policy structures, and enhanced safety and accountability metrics," ARTBA's report noted.

It remains unclear how lawmakers will find the funds to pay for the highway bill.

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November 12, 2019, 4:24 pm PDT

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