Bipartisan Senate group introduces 6-year, $257 billion highway bill

Updated Jun 26, 2015

Another Highway Trust Fund deadline is fast approaching, and the looming loss of funds has some U.S. Senators reaching across the isle to get a deal done.

Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Barbara Boxer (D-California), David Vitter (R-Louisiana) and Tom Carper (D-Deleware) introduced a six-year, $257.5 billion bill on Tuesday from the Environment and Public Works Committee.

The Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) builds on the MAP-21 legislation from 2012 and ups the amount of funding set to go towards the maintenance and expansion of America’s highways and bridges. Under the new bill, transportation spending would increase to $45.5 billion by 2022.

The bill does not, however, specify how the funds will be raised.

“I am proud of the bipartisan work that has culminated in a six-year surface transportation reauthorization,” Inhofe said in a press release. “Our nation’s roads and highways have suffered under too many short-term extensions, which have led to higher costs, more waste, and less capability to prioritize major modernization projects to address growing demands on our interstates.

“The DRIVE Act will provide states and local communities with the certainty they deserve to plan and construct infrastructure projects efficiently. This bipartisan bill also contains the hallmark accomplishment of a new freight program to prioritize federal spending on the facilities that will most directly benefit our economy, in addition to prioritizing federal dollars towards bridge safety and the interstate system. The DRIVE Act will help set the tone for America’s economic future by putting our nation back on the map as the best place to do business.”

The National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association lauded the bipartisan bill as “solid first step toward a long-term highway bill.”

“Finally, there is progress to put America’s infrastructure back to where it needs to be so we can grow the economy and create jobs,” NSSGA president and CEO Michael W. Johnson said. 

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Johnson also cautioned, however, that Congress still needs to find a way to pay for a bill with a price tag well over $250 billion.

The bill next goes to the Senate Finance Committee.

From the summary of the bill, here are the highlights:

  • Long-term funding certainty for state and local governments to support multi-year transportation project investments.
  • Increased funding for existing core transportation formula programs to provide states and local governments with a strong federal partner.
  • Creation of a new multi-billion dollar per year freight program to help states deliver projects that promote the safe, efficient, and reliable transportation of consumer goods and products that is on top of the existing formula programs.
  • Targeted funds for major projects of high importance to a community, a region, or the nation.
  • Greater efficiency in the project delivery process through improved collaboration and reduced duplication.
  • Increased funding priority on the Interstate System, the National Highway System, and bridges at risk of funding shortfalls.
  • Greater transparency on the use of federal funds to show taxpayers where their infrastructure dollars are being spent and reinforce public trust.
  • Support for innovative financing tools that allow state and local governments to leverage federal funds for transportation projects and maximize investments, particularly in rural areas where such tools were previously unavailable.