House Transportation Bill Advances with More Infrastructure Priorities

Since our last federal policy blog two weeks ago covering Committee action, the House transportation bill, the INVEST Act, has expanded and moved forward.  As a reminder, the INVEST Act includes an estimated $7 billion over four years for active transportation projects and improving safety for people biking, walking, and rolling, plus many strong policy changes.  Given this, 32 national organizations joined with the League of American Bicyclists, American Heart Association, and Safe Routes Partnership to ask the House to vote in favor of the INVEST Act.

Along with the $500 billion in funding and policy affecting transportation outlined in the INVEST Act, HR2 now includes an additional $900 billion to cover clean water, broadband, green energy, housing, and more--and was renamed to the Moving Forward Act.  Also included is $130 billion in grants and bond authority to help schools make safety upgrades to comply with CDC guidance on COVID-19 and for digital learning and broadband improvements.

This week, the full US House of Representatives considered HR2, adopting a total of 160 amendments on a wide range of subjects.  It passed the House floor today on a vote of 233-188. Once again, there were no attempts to eliminate or cut back funding for biking and walking.  We wanted to highlight a couple of amendments that would provide useful equity and air quality information once studies were completed:

  • Reps. Tlaib (D-MI), Barragan (D-CA), Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Brownley (D-CA) added an amendment to study the impact of infrastructure design and projects on disproportionately exposed communities.
  • Rep. Brownley (D-CA) successfully added a requirement to study the effects of idling school buses and cars in school zones on children’s health.
  • Rep. Pressley (D-MA) secured inclusion of a study of the impact of transportation policies, such as fare evasion and speed camera enforcement, on marginalized communities.

While we are very pleased to have a transportation bill pass the House that has very strong policy and funding for active transportation, the next steps have become somewhat murky.  House Republicans have strongly registered their objections to the cost of the bill and to the inclusion of many climate provisions throughout the process, and only 1 Republican voted for its passage on the floor.  President Trump has already indicated he would veto the bill if it reached his desk in its current form.  And in the Senate, Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) derided the bill as “political theater” and the “Green New Deal masquerading as a highway bill.” 

The Senate’s transportation bill still needs to have transit, safety, and funding titles added and to be voted on by the full Senate before the House and Senate could try to work out their differences and pass a compromise bill.  The Trump administration has also said they are working on an infrastructure package, which would add yet another party to the negotiations.  It is an open question as to whether the House and Senate could find common ground on transportation policy—particularly as a way to invest in jobs and infrastructure to help the economy recover from pandemic-related losses—or whether we will find ourselves starting anew in 2021 with a new Congress. We are hopeful that our wins for Safe Routes, biking, and walking and improvements on safety will ultimately find a way to be signed into law this year.