Federal Highway Funding Update

On June 24, 2015, the EPW Committee unanimously approved S. 1647, the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act, to authorize funds for Federal-aid highways and highway safety construction programs. The bipartisan support reflected in the 20-0 vote in favor of the bill came after lawmakers expressed the need for a program that sustains America’s infrastructure. “Passing a fiscally responsible, long-term highway bill is a priority,” said EPW Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.).  A quick summary of the legislation appears below.

While the DRIVE Act brings NAPA closer to securing the long-term funding necessary to create a system that promotes safety and greater mobility through establishing a new formula-based national freight program, a new discretionary grant program to fund major highway improvement projects and increase  federal highway funding at 3 percent per annum over six years, our work is not done.  Lawmakers must find a way to offset the estimated $278 billion dollar cost of the legislation.

The House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees are looking to find new revenue to pay for this legislation, but both have expressed the difficulty in finding the dollars necessary to fund a six-year bill before the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) authority expires on July 31, 2015. Moreover, the common sense approach of raising the gas tax to offset these costs has been rebuffed by leaders in both the House and Senate.

NAPA was able to provide testimony and pressure to the tax writing committee members during the CEO Fly-in, which occurred simultaneously with the EPW Committee mark-up. “The CEOs in attendance focused on the tax writing committees and came away from the meetings very frustrated,” said Jay Hansen, Executive Vice President of NAPA. “We will continue to work with Congress to obtain funding larger than what is recommended by the EPW Committee, and see elements of this legislation implemented as soon as possible.”

DRIVE Act Takeaways

  • S. 1647, The Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act.
  • Approved by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on June 24, 2015.
  • Six-year Highway Bill with 3% increases each year as follows:
    • $40,579,500,000 for fiscal year 2016;
    • $41,421,300,000 for fiscal year 2017;
    • $42,327,100,000 for fiscal year 2018;
    • $43,300,400,000 for fiscal year 2019;
    • $44,394,700,000 for fiscal year 2020;
    • $45,515,900,000 for fiscal year 2021.
  • The Senate Finance Committee must find $15 billion a year in new revenue to pay for the bill.
  • Establishes a new formula-based National Freight Program and authorizes $14 billion over six years for the program.
  • Provides $2.4 billion over six years to fund major highway improvement projects that exceed available state funds.
  • Removes the restriction on tolls on the Interstate Highway System for added lane capacity only.
  • Reduces TIFIA loan and credit assistance program from $1 billion to $675 million annually.
  • Reauthorizes the Accelerated Implementation and Deployment of Pavement Technologies Program (AIDPT) and provides $6 million annually for asphalt deployment activities.
  • Continues Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Every Day Counts Initiative and requires a new collection of innovations, best practices, and data be deployed every two years.
  • Allows local jurisdictions to use their own design standards different from the roadway design guide used by the state.
  • Does not include any pavement design or pavement type selection legislative mandates (LCCA, Alternative Bid, MEPDG) being pushed by the cement industry.
  • NAPA supports the DRIVE Act as the minimum and will work for a measure larger than the committee approved measure.
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