Priorities for a Bipartisan Federal Infrastructure Bill

July 21, 2021

As Congressional negotiations on a historic federal infrastructure bill continue, uncertainty remains about the scope of the legislation, its duration, and whether the final bill will be bipartisan.

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As Congressional negotiations on a historic federal infrastructure bill continue, uncertainty remains about the scope of the legislation, its duration, and whether the final bill will be bipartisan.

What seems certain, however, it that the impact of a federal infrastructure bill will be sweeping. Therefore, the Metro Atlanta Chamber has united with leaders from over a dozen other major metropolitan areas to voice our shared priorities. Collectively, the regions represented in the Metro Civic Leadership Alliance include more than 66 million U.S. residents and nearly 30 percent of our nation’s GDP. This group has worked continuously through the negotiations to ensure the final bill supports our dynamic regional economies and provides more competitive, inclusive, and environmentally-friendly multi-modal transportation.

The Good: The House and Senate proposals released thus far would build on the existing FAST Act program structure and would substantially increase federal funding commitments over five years. The bills would also establish stronger federal leadership and resources on climate and resilience, enhance investments in intercity passenger rail and transit, and create new programs to unlock our ability to tackle our worst congestion.

Room for Improvement: Both the House and Senate’s infrastructure proposals should increase targeted investment in metros and the cities that anchor them. While both bills do make some progress—for example, both bills create new metro-focused programs—the impact would be limited due to the modest funding levels for these programs.

The pending infrastructure bill (or suite of bills) is widely expected to be a vehicle for a surface transportation re-authorization, which is set to expire on September 30. Below is a list of items we support for inclusion in the legislation:

  • Resiliency funding. Demonstration projects that help address climate threats have not yet been included in either the Senate or House surface transportation proposals (a USDOT request). It would be of great value to major metros, which are home to most of the nation’s critical infrastructure and the communities that face climate threats.
  • Climate-focused formula programs. Grow the Senate EPW-passed program by $10.4 billion, targeting resources to regions by sub-allocating the program at 65 percent. While substantial, this funding increase would bring the total funding for climate-focused formula programs up to 25 percent of the state highway-focused National Highway Performance Program ($37 billion over five years vs. $148 billion).
  • Congestion Relief Program. Grow the Senate program to $1.5 billion over five years with a focus on person-capacity, not vehicle-capacity. Severe congestion plagues most of the country’s largest urban areas. Significant new investment is needed to reduce congestion and improve mobility. This will support economic growth, keep freight moving, and alleviate poor public health outcomes that disproportionately harm our nation’s most disadvantaged communities.
  • Public transit funding. Public transit funding should be increased to address the critical state of repair needs and enhance reliable, sustainable, and safe mobility options for historically underinvested communities.
  • Enhanced local and regional authority. The House INVEST in America Act took steps to enhance local and regional authority through the Metro Performance Program and Local Project Delivery Improvements sections. These changes should be included in the Senate bill as they will enable high-performing MPOs and cities to deploy innovative project delivery methods and enhance decision-making authority.
  • Freight and commuter rail projects. We encourage prioritizing intercity and freight programs, including the Senate’s prioritization of multimodal projects, and allow intercity and commuter rail projects within the major projects program. The final bill should eliminate any cap for non-highway projects in its Nationally Significant Multimodal Freight program, elevate funding to the House’s funding level, and increase focus on addressing critical resiliency planning and investments in mega projects.
  • Airport infrastructure funding. The final proposal should include funding to repair and enhance the capacity of our major metropolitan airports. It should also expand eligibility to airport terminal and airport access infrastructure.