House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., was planning to introduce a surface transportation bill Tuesday that would keep current spending levels for highway projects but limit the federal role in maintaining national infrastructure.
The American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act would provide some $42 billion per year for highways through fiscal 2016. All the revenue would be disbursed by formula, eliminating any discretionary spending such as the Department of Transportation’s TIGER program, according to members of the transportation community who have seen draft copies.
States would see increased funding for infrastructure banks, but the bill does not provide for a national “I-bank” that was supported by Senate Democrats and the Obama administration. The bill also would increase funding for the Transportation Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act, or TIFIA, programs.
The bill would streamline the environmental review process, and consolidate or eliminate funds for such specialized DOT programs as bike paths or scenic byways. It also would permit states to allow 97,000-pound trucks and longer combination vehicles.
Revenue for the program would come from fuel taxes paid in to the Highway Trust Fund, but the House Republican leadership also is turning to revenue from leases for new offshore oil exploration, and opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.
Even before Mica was set to introduce his measure, the Natural Resources Defense Council scheduled a press conference to protest a bill it said would “lard up this bill with unrelated provisions designed to score political points — not fix our roads, improve our commutes or create jobs.”