Infrastructure Roundup

March 9, 2018
Speaker Paul Ryan said the House intends to do a piecemeal infrastructure overhaul

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said Thursday the House intends to do a piecemeal infrastructure overhaul with five or six bills instead of one huge umbrella bill.

“We think it’s easier to break it into pieces,” he said. reports the first order of business will be reauthorizing a short-term Federal Aviation Administration extension which will expire at the end of this month. Ryan expects a longer-term FAA bill will be presented later this year.

The Water Resources Development Act authorizing water infrastructure projects like ports and inland waterways will be worked on.

Highways, roads, bridges and canals will be done “in different stages,” Ryan noted. The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, known as the FAST Act, expires at the end of the 2020 fiscal year. The Highway Trust Fund that pays for federal highway and transit spending is projected to run out of money shortly after.

Funding for the administration's $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan will not include a federal gas tax hike, according to Ryan. “There are some people who are talking about that, but the last thing we want to do is pass historic tax relief in December and then undo that, so we are not going to raise gas taxes.”

Meantime, Reuters reports a group of lawmakers met Wednesday to discuss how to pay for the huge funding shortfall in order to fix crumbling roads and deficient bridges.

Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Bill Shuster, said he is working towards “big broad bipartisan infrastructure bill” that could well include a a federal gasoline tax hike. Shuster reasoned that in the 31 states who have raised gas taxes on the local level, “There’s been no political price to pay,” he said.

During the Wednesday hearing, the was discussion about the experimental Oregon program that charges a mileage tax on drivers. However, putting a nationwide program of that kind could take 10 years, according to experts.

Over at the White House, the administration has threatened to veto a massive government funding package if it includes money for the estimated $29 billion Gateway Project which would connect New York and New Jersey by a tunnel under the Hudson River.

The reports that during a hearing on Tuesday, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao confirmed a separate report from the Washington Post that Trump had been pressing Speaker Paul Ryan to withhold $950 million in federal funding for the project.

“The president is concerned about the viability of this project and the fact that New York and New Jersey have no skin in the game,” Chao said. Under the Obama administration , New York and New Jersey agreed to pay half the project's cost, with the federal government paying the rest. However, according to Chao, there is nothing in writing committing the federal government to pay anything for the Gateway Project.

image: Capitol Visitor Center