December 1, 2015
This week the House is expected to approve the conference report for H.R. 22, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act which authorizes $305 billion for surface transportation programs over five years. This funding will support vital investments in highways, transit, Amtrak, and intercity passenger rail across the country. Of that amount, Massachusetts is expected to receive more than $5 billion for highways and transit, an increase of more than $447 million or 9.7% over current funding levels.
As the only New England member of the conference committee negotiating the differences between the House and Senate transportation bills, my primary focus was on ensuring that we received our fair share of available federal dollars. No legislation is perfect but in a climate where virtually every federal program is at risk of steep cuts, I am very encouraged over the amount of federal transportation dollars designated for Massachusetts.
Every Member of Congress represents communities facing transportation infrastructure needs ranging from repairing aging bridges to improving public transit. Transportation dollars not only improve the overall infrastructure, they create jobs and benefit the economy. The White House Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) has estimated that for every $1 billion in federal funds spent on highways and transit, 13,000 jobs are supported for a year, so this bill can be fairly expected to support over 4 million jobs during the next five years.
H.R. 22 provides some much needed stability for states and municipalities. Transportation funding has been subject to dozens of short term extensions over the past several years, creating uncertainty in long-term planning. With passage of the conference report, Massachusetts and other states will now know how much federal money they can expect over the next five years.
The conference report also includes some additional Federal Transit Authority competitive grant programs that Massachusetts will be eligible to pursue. A $303 million per year bus discretionary program and a $20 million per year research program are being established. This gives Massachusetts and other states new funding streams that they can use to advance their transportation priorities.
The House is expected to pass the conference report to H.R. 22 on Thursday with the Senate following suit next week. Although this bill is not all it could be, in light of the current atmosphere in Washington and the never-ending population shift out of New England, I am very proud of my work on this matter and am confident it will help Massachusetts move forward in our quest to improvement our transportation infrastructure.