On July 1, the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 233-188, passed the $1.5 trillion Moving Forward Act, H.R. 2, which incorporates and expands upon the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act that was passed out of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in June. The committee, led by Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), designed the $494 billion funding package for surface transportation reauthorization in response to the looming expiration of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act on September 30, 2020. Oregon would receive $3.6 billion over five years for highway funding and more than $863 million over five years for transit funding.

In a statement, Chairman DeFazio said, “with the Moving Forward Act, we make it clear that our infrastructure does not have to be a product of the past, with crumbling roads and bridges, unreliable transit and rail networks, inequitable outcomes, and little regard to our changing climate and our changing economy. I challenge my Senate colleagues to join the House in thinking big and being bold on long-overdue investments not only in our infrastructure, but also in the communities and the people we all represent.”

If the Moving Forward Act, is signed into law, it would do the following: 

  • Increase funding for surface transportation programs by 62 percent over current levels prescribed by the FAST Act and increase the percentage allocated to counties from 55 percent that is in current law to 60 percent by Fiscal Year (FY) 2025.
  • Substantially increase direct funding opportunities for counties to advance surface transportation projects by creating or reviving over 20 new grant programs, the majority of which could be applied for directly through the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT). 
  • Allow FY 2021 highway and transit funds to be used at a 100 percent federal cost share to assist communities recovering from COVID-19. 
  • Maintain and increase the off-system bridge set-aside to over $1 billion annually. 
  • Increase sub allocation amounts for counties through the Surface Transportation Block Grant program.
  • Prioritize returning surface transportation assets to states of good repair versus providing new capacity for motor vehicles and increase active transportation opportunities.
  • Unlock the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.
  • Invest $130 billion in grants and bonds for infrastructure improvements in high-poverty public schools.
  • Authorize $10 billion in grants for childcare facility improvements to increase child safety and meet health requirements created by the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Create new options for state revolving funds under the Federal Emergency Management Agency for hazard mitigation projects.
  • Prohibit state barriers and restrictions on municipal-owned broadband networks that are currently in place in 22 states where counties are either impeded or prohibited entirely from owning or operating municipal broadband networks.
  • Provide $700 million annually to establish a new program for projects that improve resiliency, performance, or efficiency of the electricity grid.
  • Direct states to coordinate with local governments and other entities in the development of state energy plans.
  • Authorize $10 billion through a new competitive process within the Community Development Block Grant program.
  • Authorize $5 billion for the Home Investment Partnerships (HOME) program.
  • Increase state Low Income Housing Tax Credits annual allocations.
  • Increase funding allocations and make permanent the New Markets Tax Credit program.

Additional provisions of importance for Oregon counties: 

  • Creates a new apportionment program to fund resilience and emergency evacuation projects, allocating $6.25 billion for FY 2022-2026.
  • Increases safety funding by approximately 30 percent; allows block grant funding to be used for vision zero planning and requires states to consult with local partners to create a vulnerable road user safety assessment as part of the highway safety plan.  
  • Prioritizes local control with $600 million annually for a new Community Transportation Investment discretionary grant program for local transportation projects with a dedicated rural set-aside.
  • Allocates an additional $345 million per year to the Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP).
  • Streamlines bridge projects by allowing local governments to use multiple sources of federal funding for one bridge bundle and maintains the off-system, set-aside exemption, which Oregon currently operates under.
  • Starts the transition away from fuels taxes being the primary source of surface transportation funding by instituting a nationwide Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) pilot program for hybrid and electric vehicles.
  • Creates Qualified Infrastructure Bonds (QIBs).

The Moving Forward Act currently sits in the Senate for consideration. However, its fate is to be determined. The Senate may revive the $287 billion surface transportation reauthorization legislation, S. 2302, America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (ATIA), introduced last year by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. 

A detailed National Association of Counties (NACo) summary of the full Moving Forward Act is available here.

Contributed by: Jocelyn Blake