House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica heralded the introduction of a five-year, $260 billion surface transportation plan as the “most important legislation to put Americans back to work.”
The Florida Republican said the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act will provide states with a steady funding source so that they can make long-term infrastructure investments. Under the transport plan, the 70 federal highway programs would be eliminated or consolidated, and states would have more freedom in how they spend their federal dollars.
Mica said that $175 billion will come from the Highway Trust Fund, the traditional source of money for highway infrastructure. Some of the funding would come through the expansion of domestic energy production, including the drilling of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The bill also calls for the permitting of the contentious Keystone XL pipeline.
Mica deferred to other committees, including Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce, that will draft language for the funding portions of the bill. Under the plan, states could increase the weight limits of trucks on highways to 97,000 pounds from 80,000 pounds, a proposal that drew the ire of the Association of American Railroads.
The bill also encourages private investment, provides incentives for expanding state infrastructure banks and quadruples the amount for the Transportation Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act program. The surface transport plan streamlines the environmental review process, especially for projects on existing rights of way.
The transportation committee will mark up the bill on Thursday. Mica said he expected it to go to the House floor sometime in February.
Senators are still looking for roughly $12 billion to plug a gap in their bipartisan two-year, $109 billion transport plan.