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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Surface Transportation Reauthorization Legislation in the 112th Congress: MAP-21 and H.R. 7, Major Provisions

Robert S. Kirk, Coordinator
Specialist in Transportation 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 passed S. 1813, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), on March 14, 2012. MAP-21 is a two-year reauthorization bill (FY2012-FY2013). 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 provide roughly $10.5 billion in offsets and revenue transfers to the HTF.

• 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 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 House bill, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act (H.R. 7), links the usual surface transportation reauthorization components with provisions designed to increase oil and gas production, the revenues from which would be provided for highway infrastructure. H.R. 7, counting the already-appropriated FY2012, is a five-year bill providing for a total authorization of roughly $260 billion. The House and Senate bills differ significantly in programmatic content and treatment of the HTF. Both, however, would reduce the number of programs by roughly twothirds, would accelerate project delivery, and are free of program earmarking.

Date of Report: March 30, 2012
Number of Pages: 68
Order Number: R42445
Price: $29.95

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