Kirk, Coordinator Specialist
in Transportation Policy
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.
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