The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee earlier this week passed out of committee the “America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act” authorizing $287 billion from the highway trust fund over five years to maintain and repair America’s roads and bridges. The bill also increases funding for the “Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects” program by providing $5.5 billion over five years to prioritize certain critical interstate projects that should help ease congestion and speed freight over the nation’s highways. This is vital for manufacturing industries such as the scrap recycling industry that heavily rely on trucking to move materials in and out of their facilities.
The legislation also proposes to “cut red tape” that often delays highway projects by establishing a 2-year goal for completion of environmental reviews, a 90-day timeline for related project authorizations, limits any possible agency extensions, and establishes one single environmental document and record of decision to alleviate any unnecessary delays. Without the current delays in permitting these projects, more materials such as steel, aluminum, copper, plastic, and rubber among others will be ordered faster to complete these projects.
The proposed highway bill also includes provisions to improve “resiliency,” protects the environment and reduces pollution by providing $4.9 billion over five years in a new program to protect roads and bridges from natural disasters such as hurricanes and other extreme weather events. Making these structures more resilient is intended to alleviate the shortages and bottlenecks caused when a road or bridge is damaged and thereby halts freight traffic. The bill also includes funds to lower highway-related carbon emissions and build out alternative fueling infrastructure for vehicles running on natural gas, electric, and hydrogen fuels as these passenger and freight vehicles are expected to increase.
The proposed highway bill still has several steps to go before becoming law including first passing the full Senate. Passing a House companion is also necessary before the two bills are “conferenced” together then sent to the president for his signature.