Democrats Advance Housing, Climate Goals in Transportation Bill
(Bloomberg Government) -- Rail, transit near affordable housing, and carbon emission programs would get a funding boost in a House transportation panel’s portion of Democrats’ $3.5 trillion tax and social policy bill.
The legislation would address many Democratic climate priorities, with $10 billion for high-speed rail and $4 billion to lower transportation greenhouse gas emissions, according to a summary the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee released Friday. The panel will consider the proposal Tuesday.
The Transportation panel’s bill can increase the deficit by no more than $60 billion between fiscal 2022 and 2031 under the framework House Democrats are following.
The funding would be in addition to the money included in the Senate infrastructure bill (H.R. 3684). Some lawmakers agreed that provisions cut from the infrastructure bill wouldn’t be added to Democrats’ separate spending package, and it’s yet to be determined how this legislation will affect that agreement. Democrats have said they were working to create programs in this legislation that wouldn’t overlap with the infrastructure bill.
“I didn’t sign that agreement,” House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said in August. “We are working with the White House to see if there are ways around it,” he said, adding that he was looking into creating new, different programs so “it’s not double-dipping.”
The bill includes $10 billion for grants for new transit routes and expanded services in low-income and disadvantaged areas. The proposal is similar to a bicameral bill introduced Friday to connect housing and transit, which the sponsors were pushing to include in reconciliation.
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House and Senate Democrats had been pushing for the package to include at least $30 billion for transit, pitching it as a means to boost climate and provide more equitable transportation.
The bill includes nearly $4 billion in competitive grants to reconnect communities divided by infrastructure barriers. It also proposes $6 billion for local surface transportation projects appropriated to the transportation secretary. The bill doesn’t specify how those funds would be allocated.
Sectors across transportation would get additional funding under the reconciliation package, and the panel incorporated language that would allow for climate reduction projects to get a boost.
For aviation, the bill would provide $1 billion to support projects that develop low-emission technologies or sustainable fuels, as well as $6 million for the Federal Aviation Administration to adopt a system from the International Civil Aviation Organization to lower international carbon emissions. The proposal comes shortly after the White House announced Thursday its goal to reduce aviation emissions 20% by 2030.
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Lawmakers and lobbyists were pushing for more high-speed rail funding in the reconciliation package after not securing more designated money in the infrastructure bill, arguing that it is a greener way to travel. In the panel’s bill, $10 billion would go to high-speed rail corridors and $150 million would support additional federal funding for railroad infrastructure development.
The bill also includes $2.5 billion for projects to help with the supply chain, reduce port congestion—a growing concern during the pandemic— and lower ports’ impact on the environment. Democratic Sens. Gary Peters (Mich.) and Maria Cantwell (Wash.) sent a letter this week to congressional leaders asking for at least $2.5 billion to address port congestion in the reconciliation bill.
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