While its ultimate passage remains unclear, on August 10, 2021, the United States Senate approved passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R.3684) (“the Act”). According to the bill’s sponsors, the Act aims to accomplish the following:
- extend and reauthorize several surface transportation programs, including the federal-aid highway program, transit programs, highway safety, motor carrier safety, and rail programs until 2026;
- address climate change, including strategies to reduce the climate change impacts of the surface transportation system and a vulnerability assessment to identify opportunities to enhance the resilience of the surface transportation system and ensure the efficient use of federal resources;
- revise procurement requirements for highways, mass transit, and rail;
- establish a program to rebuild rural bridges and improve the safety and state of good repair of bridges in rural communities;
- implement new safety requirements across all transportation modes; and
- direct the Department of Transportation to establish a pilot program to demonstrate a national motor vehicle per-mile user fee to restore and maintain the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund and achieve and maintain a state of good repair in the surface transportation system.
The Act seeks to authorize $550 billion in appropriations for new federal investments in America’s infrastructure over five years. The legislation would allocate $110 billion for roads, bridges, and major infrastructure projects; $66 billion for passenger and freight rail, $12 billion of which would be allocated for partnership grants for intercity rail service, including high-speed rail; $65 billion to rebuild the electric grid; $65 billion to improve the nation’s broadband infrastructure; $55 billion to upgrade water infrastructure; $39 billion to modernize public transit; and $17 billion for port infrastructure and $25 billion for airports to address repair and maintenance backlogs, reduce congestion and emissions, and promote electrification and other low-carbon technologies.
Though far short of the $2.25 trillion proposal initially put forth by its backers, if passed, the Act would be a generational investment in the nation’s infrastructure, including the largest federal investment in public transit in history and in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak 50 years ago, according to its supporters. The Congressional Budget Office, however, projected that the infrastructure bill would add about $256 billion to the nation’s deficit over a ten-year period.
Before becoming law, the United States House of Representatives must now approve the Senate-passed infrastructure bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has committed to a September 27th deadline to vote on the $550 billion infrastructure bill.