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Friday, December 23, 2011

Surface Transportation Reauthorization Legislation in the 112th Congress: Summary of Selected Major Provisions

Robert S. Kirk
Specialist in Transportation Policy

William J. Mallett
Specialist in Transportation Policy

David Randall Peterman
Analyst in Transportation Policy

John Frittelli
Specialist in Transportation Policy

Linda Luther
Analyst in Environmental Policy

Brent D. Yacobucci
Specialist in Energy and Environmental Policy

The federal government’s highway, mass transit, and surface transportation safety programs are periodically authorized in a multi-year surface transportation reauthorization bill. The most recent reauthorization act, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: a Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU or SAFETEA; P.L. 109-59), expired at the end of FY2009. Since then, the surface transportation programs and activities have been funded under a series of extension acts.

The main reason for the failure to pass a new multi-year bill during the past two years has been the disparity between projected spending and the much lower projections of the revenue flows to the highway trust fund (HTF). Taxes on gasoline and diesel provide 90% of the revenues for the HTF, which historically has funded the entire highway program and roughly 80% of the mass transit program. The rates on these taxes, which are on a cents-per-gallon basis, have not been increased since 1993. In addition, the condition of the economy and improvements in fuel economy have held down fuel consumption and as a result are adversely affecting HTF revenues. Consequently, authorizers face a dilemma: how to pass a bill without cutting infrastructure spending, raising the gas tax, or increasing the budget deficit.

On November 9, 2011, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee marked up and reported favorably on S. 1813, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). MAP-21 is a two-year reauthorization bill (FY2012-FY2013). To fully fund the bill, $12 billion in new revenues or offsets (to allow for General Fund transfers) is needed beyond anticipated HTF revenues. MAP-21 proposes:

  • A total Federal-Aid Highway Program authorization of $39.4 billion for FY2012 and $40.4 billion for FY2013 (reflecting rescissions), and $400 million for research and education in each fiscal year. 
  • To reduce the total number of highway programs from roughly 90 to 30. The overall Federal-Aid Highway Program would be structured around five large “core” programs, including a new National Freight Program. The existing Equity Bonus Program would be discontinued. 
  • To eliminate individual program formula factors used to allocate funds. Instead, each state’s initial amount of the bill’s authorized contract authority would be calculated based on its share of total apportionments and allocations during FY2005-FY2009. These state shares would then be used to calculate the MAP-21 apportionments among the core programs. 
  • To accelerate project delivery through innovative contracting, enhanced dispute resolution, early right-of-way acquisition, early coordination among agencies, and provisions designed to speed up the environmental review process. 
  • To increase the use of performance measures, including creation of a National Highway Performance Program.
The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, as well as other committees of jurisdiction in both the House and Senate, are also expected to mark-up bill language for surface transportation reauthorization.

Date of Report: December 14, 2011
Number of Pages: 32
Order Number: R42120
Price: $29.95

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