Local Implications of New Federal
A new five-year federal transportation bill has been approved after years of extensions and delays. The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act replaces Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act.
The new bill budgets $305 billion for surface transportation, boosting highway spending by 15 percent and transit spending by 18 percent over its duration. Most of the funding will come from the federal Highway Trust Fund. However, with no change in the gasoline tax since 1993, the fund cannot support all the necessary spending. “There are some creative funding mechanisms in the mix,” said David Gedeon, TMACOG acting vice president of Transportation. “But it’s certainly good for local planning to have a stable five-year bill.”
Locally relevant elements of the new bill include a small increase in local planning funds for Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) including TMACOG. MPOs with more than 200,000 in population are also eligible for funding under the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects program. The FAST Act also puts funding for Transportation Alternatives, which includes bicycle infrastructure, into the surface transportation fund. The new bill has important implications for the freight industry including funding for a National Highway Freight Program and a Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects Program. It also expands funding for bridges.
The National Association of Regional Councils of which TMACOG is a member advocated for an increase in the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program but noted that it remains underfunded in the new bill. A summary statement on the FAST Act was released by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Bill Shuster.