Earlier this week, Rep. Shuster (R-PA), the current chair of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, released an Infrastructure Discussion Draft. He is hoping it will prompt discussion on how to address the continual shortfall of funding in the Highway Trust Fund. The federal gas tax hasn’t been increased in more than two decades so it generates billions of dollars less than current transportation spending levels, requiring frequent infusions of money from the country’s general fund. Among the many ideas contained in Rep. Shuster’s draft bill are the following:
- Temporarily increases the gas tax by 15 cents over a three-year period and then indexes it to inflation so it will continue to grow.
- Creates a pilot program to test out transitioning from a tax on gasoline to a tax based on miles driven (vehicle miles traveled)
- Creates a Highway Trust Fund Commission to determine a new funding mechanism for transportation, which cannot be a gasoline tax, that must be in place before the gas tax is then eliminated in 2028.
- Adds new funding mechanisms from a 10 percent tax on bike tires (26 inches or larger) and electric vehicle batteries, and eliminates the fuel tax subsidy for transit.
- Increases funding for the next 3 years for roads and bridges, which excludes increases for biking and walking projects.
The FAST Act, which was the most recent transportation reauthorization bill that passed in late 2015, lasts through September 2020, which is two years away. As Congress tends to work to a deadline, it is unlikely that Congress will move forward on this discussion draft this year. Rep. Shuster is retiring at the end of this year and so won’t be in a position to simply try to move his draft next year.
Even so, this discussion draft is the first salvo in ideas that could help shape the next transportation reauthorization bill. It wouldn’t be surprising to see at least some of these ideas adapted and included in the next transportation bill.
Starting in 2019, Congress will need to engage in hearings, listening sessions, and discussions about how to pay for a new transportation bill and which policy changes might be included. The Safe Routes Partnership is engaging with other organizations and people in the active transportation world to identify potential changes to the Transportation Alternatives Program and other policy priorities we might want to ask for. What is possible will depend a great deal on the outcome of the November elections and which party and which Members of Congress are in a leadership role on transportation.
Please be in touch with Margo Pedroso at email@example.com if you have ideas or challenges for a future transportation bill. And, we hope you will be an active participant in grassroots advocacy in 2019 and 2020 – we will need the help of Safe Routes to School supporters like you to secure positive changes for active transportation!