Their support follows today’s unanimous approval by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) of a related bill, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021 (STRA-21). According to the committee, STRA-21 is bipartisan legislation to invest $303.5 billion over five years to upgrade U.S. highways, roads, and bridges. That sum marks a 34% increase in funding from the last surface transportation reauthorization, and represents a “first down payment” on President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, the committee said.
Congress now has until September 30 to reauthorize baseline funding for U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) surface transportation programs. Logistics industry groups are pushing to support that result.
The bipartisan approval of this latest investment in the nation’s highways, bridges, and roads “sends a clear signal that common ground still exists when it comes to the nation’s infrastructure,” the Association of American Railroads (AAR) said in a release.
“Today reminded us of what we in the transportation sector have always known – infrastructure should be bipartisan,” AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies said in a release. “This reauthorization bill will help rebuild our surface transportation systems today while also making a substantial down payment on the nation’s future needs. Railroads commend EPW Committee members for their resolve and uniform bipartisan commitment to modernizing our nations highway infrastructure.”
Consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry group the Consumer Brands Association likewise cheered the result and encouraged “similar bipartisan spirit” from members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which will handle the bill next.
“The consumer packaged goods industry (CPG) is responsible for one-fifth of all freight in the United States and depends heavily on our nation’s highways and railways to deliver essential products to Americans in every town across the country,” Jen Daulby, the group’s senior vice president of government affairs, said in a release. “This bill emphasizes the need to invest in rural America, which is a critical link in CPG supply chains, connecting farmers, manufacturers and consumers across the nation. As we have seen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our nation’s supply chains are fragile, and we must act now to ensure their resiliency in the face of future crises.”
Despite today’s procedural approval of the DOT spending bill, the larger national infrastructure renewal plan still faces a protracted period of negotiation over details such as how to pay for it. Options include a nationwide vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax, a rollback of corporate tax breaks in the Trump Administration’s 2017 tax bill, tapping into unspent Covid stimulus funds, and tying the federal fuel tax to rising interest rates. Congress is also considering whether to trim the overall size of the project, weighing options such as the initial $2.3 trillion plan, a White House offer last week to cut that price tag to $1.7 trillion, and a Republican counteroffer to spend about $1 trillion.
CPG accounts for 1/5 of all U.S. freight. We depend heavily on highways to get products to stores and doors of people who rely on them every day. Thank you, @SenatorCarper and @SenCapito, for your leadership on this bill. @EPWCmte https://t.co/eKNgZrM2uQ— Consumer Brands (@consumerbrands) May 26, 2021