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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Surface Transportation Reauthorization Legislation in the 112th Congress: Major Provisions Pending in the Senate

Robert S. Kirk, Coordinator
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
Section Research Manager

Mary Tiemann
Specialist in 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 obstacle to passage of 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.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee marked up and reported favorably on the highway provisions of S. 1813, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), on November 9 2011. MAP-21 is a two-year reauthorization bill (FY2012-FY2013). As of February 7, 2012, all committees of jurisdiction had marked up their titles. These titles were titles were folded into Senate amendment SA 1761, “of a perfecting nature,” to S. 1813, on March 1, 2012. To fully fund the bill, roughly $10.5 billion in new revenues or offsets (to allow for general fund transfers) is needed beyond anticipated HTF revenues and balances. 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. Instead, each state’s initial amount of the bill’s authorized contract authority would be based on its share of total apportionments and allocations during FY2005-FY2009. 
         To accelerate project completion, speed up the environmental review process and increase the use of performance measures. 
         $10.458 billion, annually, for FY2012-FY2013, for transit programs. 
The Senate Finance Committee component of MAP-21 includes provisions to provide roughly $10.5 billion in offsets and revenue transfers to the HTF.

Date of Report: March 7, 2012
Number of Pages: 45
Order Number: R42120
Price: $29.95

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