House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has sewn together a collection of separate bills under the umbrella of the “Moving Forward America” law, which includes a transportation bill called the “INVEST in America Act,” and several provisions for water project funding.
The Democratic plan released late last month would spend $434 billion over five years on highways and bridges, citing investment in regional and national projects. That would including funding for repair and replacement of bridges, “including in rural area,” the House news release mentioned. The unknown here is how the House would pay for those programs, though the bill would create a pilot project for transportation user fees, “including a vehicle-miles traveled fee.”
The program also mentions “investment in alternative fuel infrastructure” that would provide funds for states and local government to build out charging stations for “zeropollution hydrogen and electric vehicles along designated highway corridors.” The news release does not make any mention of biofuels in that carbon-reduction strategy.
The bill would have another $160 billion for various mass transit, including buses and light rail for passengers. Adding to “carbon pollution reduction,” the bill also provides incentives for moving freight in cleaner transportation modes as well.
Under clean water programs, the bill includes $47.1 billion to upgrade community water needs, including setting aside funds for rural and small communities. Grants would be created for communities to invest in clean water, and EPA will provide priorities for dealing with water challenges. Another $25 billion goes to help improve drinking water pollution problems. Remediation of non-point sources, such as fertilizer runoff from farms and lawns, costs $1 billion over five years to address non-point source pollution problems. The bill also has $3.4 billion for targeted regional watershed restoration projects such as the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay
The bill boosts Corps of Engineer spending on inland waterways and harbors by “fully utilizing the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund” to expand dredging projects and work down the backlog of waterway projects that now top $100 billion. This spending would include $7 billion for Water Resources Development projects and a $3 billion “down payment” to boost locks and dams.
The Christmas Tree Ornaments
Every infrastructure bill of the modern era includes stuff unrelated to construction. In this measure, airport infrastructure receives $30 billion for upgrading air-traffic control and helping support “the growing fleet of unmanned aircraft.” Even in the airport space, the legislation would provide more incentives for “sustainable aviation fuels.” The bill also sets aside $70 billion for an array of clean energy and efficiency programs, including investments in the electric grid.
For broadband, the House would invest $98 billion over five years for broadband access. “This investment would fund connections to the internet in unserved and underserved rural, suburban and urban areas across the country.”
On to the Senate
It’s a fact that Congress gets mired in debates about how to advance and pay for massive infrastructure bills going back at least into the early days of the Obama administration. Both parties have been capable of offering significant proposals and possibly getting a plan out of one chamber of Congress on a partisan vote. But Congress has been unable to close a deal on an omnibus infrastructure package in a decade or two.