By David Bauer, senior vice president of government relations, ARTBA

Senators July 30 passed the “Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act” 65 to 34.  The measure would guarantee increased highway and public transportation investment for the next three years and distribute six years of contract authority to the states to aid in long-term transportation planning.

While the measure earned broad, bipartisan support, primary pockets of opposition came from: Republicans who want to dramatically scale back federal transportation investment and shift this responsibility to the states; Democrats from the northeast who want more done for public transit, passenger rail and transportation safety; and Democrats who want to use revenue from taxing the overseas profits of U.S.-based multinational corporations to supplement existing Highway Trust Fund (HTF) revenues.

To support its first three years of highway and public transportation investment levels, the DRIVE Act would generate $45.6 billion from a variety of non-transportation activities and transfers those proceeds to the HTF to complement $120 billion of projected incoming revenue from existing highway user fees.

The DRIVE Act’s core highway and public transportation program guaranteed investment levels are provided below:

FY 2015 (current)

FY 2016

FY 2017

FY 2018

Highway

$40.3 billion

$41.6 billion

$42.9 billion

$44.3 billion

Transit

$10.7 billion

$11.6 billion

$11.9 billion

$12.2 billion

ARTBA will provide a more detailed analysis of the DRIVE Act’s investment levels by programmatic activity in the coming days.

Following passage of the DRIVE Act, senators approved 91 to 4 a three-month extension of the highway and public transportation programs that passed the House July 29.  The extension was needed because the current authorization of the programs expires July 31 and House members started their five-week August break before the Senate approved its six-year reauthorization plan.  Even if House members had remained in Washington, D.C., they were clear that they had no intention of taking up the Senate measure without an opportunity to produce their own proposal. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) has told his committee member he plans to move forward with a multi-year surface transportation program reauthorization bill in September.

The ARTBA co-chaired Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) released a statement commending the Senate for passage of the DRIVE Act.  The TCC also called for an end to further short-term program extensions:

“Today’s Senate vote on the DRIVE Act and the expected enactment of a three-month extension of the surface transportation programs by July 31 should bring to a close once and for all claims that Congress needs “more time” to develop a long-term reauthorization bill and Highway Trust Fund solution.  For more than a year members of both parties and chambers have used this rationalization for kicking the reauthorization can down the road.  The time for any further short-term extensions is over.”

Read the full TCC statement.

Thanks to all ARTBA members for your activism in contacting your senators over the last 10 days of debate on the DRIVE Act.  We now need to build on the momentum from the Senate and pressure all House members while they are home in August to commit to passing a multi-year reauthorization bill that grows highway and public transportation investment once they return to Washington in September.  We will be sending specific grassroots requests shortly.

While you are hard at work, the ARTBA staff will be joining Congress for a five week recess—JUST KIDDING.