Last week the House of Representatives passed a five-year, $715 billion dollar transportation reauthorization bill called the INVEST in America Act. The bill includes significant increases in funding for Safe Routes to School, and reinstates the requirement for each state to have a full time Safe Routes to School Coordinator. On a broader level, it also increases funding for bicycling and walking overall, and has a stronger focus on Complete Streets and safety for vulnerable road users. (Full details are available in our June blog from when the bill passed out of the transportation committee). The bill passed the full House with votes from all House Democrats and two Republicans.
The current federal transportation law expires on September 30th, so our infrastructure summer is not over! The next step will be for the Senate to finish their transportation bill--Senate floor consideration is scheduled for July--and then for the two bills to be reconciled into one. The Senate bill has very similar provisions to the House bill for active transportation so we expect all of our priority policy and funding increases to make it into a final bill.
The transportation bill debate not only marks important improvements for active transportation infrastructure, it also marks an increased acceptance of walking, biking, and rolling as transportation. This was the first debate on transportation reauthorization in a decade where our funding wasn’t controversial or partisan, allowing us to push for more and better changes rather than just defend our programs.
How does the transportation reauthorization bill fit with the bipartisan Infrastructure deal Biden made with Senators?
You may have heard in the news about two weeks ago that President Biden struck an infrastructure deal with a bipartisan group of 21 Senators. The House and Senate transportation bills discussed above are on a separate track from this deal. The bipartisan infrastructure deal is bigger than just transportation -- it covers overall funding levels for broad categories of infrastructure like water, power grid, broadband, roads, and transit. However, the deal does not get into any specifics on policy changes or how to allocate the funds within the broad categories, so we don’t know yet what this will mean for bicycling and walking.
We could see these two tracks combined, with a compromise between the House and Senate bills making up the details of the transportation component of the bipartisan/Biden infrastructure deal. Regardless, at this point, our priority is on getting the House and Senate transportation reauthorization bills over the finish line because they include important policy changes (beyond just a funding increase!) that require states to address safety concerns of people biking, walking, and rolling, plus they would make it easier for local governments to access funds for sidewalks, crosswalks, bikeways, and trails.
Stay tuned for more news -- this summer will prove a critical time for next steps on both the House and Senate transportation bills, and the infrastructure deal.