Appealing to the White House to make infrastructure spending a bipartisan priority, U.S. House Democrats have unveiled a proposed $760 billion infrastructure spending bill over five years that aims to rebuild sagging roads and bridges and reduce carbon pollution. The plan calls for new spending on roads, bridges, rail, public transit, water and aviation, as well as spending on electric grids and internet expansion.
The plan spends $329 billon over five years on surface transportation, with a focus on fixing the 47,000 structurally deficient U.S. bridges. Democrats would also invest $105 billion in transit, $55 billion in rail spending and $30 billion in airport investments. The plan also dedicates $86 billion to expand internet access and provides $1.5 billion to support the development of an electric vehicle charging network.
Last July, a Senate panel voted to authorize $287 billion in federal government spending over five years on surface transportation needs, an increase of over 27% from FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act levels. The legislation includes provisions to maintain and repair the country’s aging highways, bridges and tunnels, but Congress has not been able to agree on how to pay for it. “For far too long, our country has leaped from one highway funding crisis to the next and failed to implement forward-looking solutions to the challenges facing our transportation sector,” said Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee and one of the sponsors of the bipartisan bill.
In his Feb. 4 speech, President Trump urged Congress to approve the highway authorization bill, saying, “We must…rebuild America’s infrastructure.” Republicans on the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee said in a statement they believe Congress can pass infrastructure legislation this year, but they argue Congress must find a new way to fund road repairs since existing gasoline tax revenue has not kept pace — the federal gas tax has not been increased since 1993, almost three decades ago.
Lawmakers face a Sept. 30 deadline to reauthorize surface transportation spending.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) said he thinks a bipartisan deal on infrastructure is possible. Neal said his committee would negotiate with Republicans “over what the revenue stream ought to be.” “What we’re looking for here is an agreement that we can then take to the public, between the two sides, on how best to pay for it,” he said.