WASHINGTON, July 6 The House of Representatives
Transportation Committee on Thursday will roll out a
multi-billion-dollar, six-year blueprint for funding roads,
highways and bridges in the United States, aiming to bolster
state infrastructure banks.
The authorization, commonly referred to as the "Highway
Bill" will be smaller in scope than envisioned in the Senate.
It will authorize spending of $35 billion a year for six years,
putting the initial price tag at $210 billion.
Instead of establishing a national infrastructure bank, the
legislation will provide state infrastructure banks with more
money, committee Chairman John Mica, a Republican, said on
Wednesday. A little less than two-thirds of the states -- 32 --
have infrastructure banks.
"They don't have to come to Washington to get approval.
They don't have to go through the red tape," Mica said about
the banks. "We're looking at evolving that for the states."
The previous $285 billion, five-year authorization expired
in 2009 and Congress has relied on a patchwork of short-term
extensions as it debates the next round of authorization. The
current extension ends Sept. 30.
The Senate is expecting to take up soon a $339 billion
authorization that also will lack a national infrastructure
bank, which President Barack Obama has long pushed to
establish. Separate legislation in the Senate would create an
independent agency that some have called the "Federal Reserve
The major issue is how to pay for any authorization.
Obama has trumpeted infrastructure investment as a way to
create jobs, but since the November election, when Republicans
took control of the House on promises of cutting the deficit,
Washington has had little appetite for a large highway bill.
The trust fund filled with gas tax revenues that is the
major source of funding is chronically short.
Mica would not commit to when the House will take up the
bill, saying current talks about reducing the deficit are
consuming much of the chamber's schedule.
The bill, which will emphasize a popular financing program
known as "TIFIA," will not go over amounts in the trust fund in
order to abide by spending limits in the House, Mica said.
The committee will consider building up a high-speed rail
network later, which will help keep the price tag small. The
Senate bill, too, will likely not address high-speed rail.
"Don't think I'm not looking for additional solutions and
resources, but given what I have this is what I'm going to
propose," Mica told reporters about the possibility that the
authorized amount could grow if other funds become available.
The country spends about $160 billion annually on highways
alone, with roughly $40 billion coming from the federal
government, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
States receive funds based on a formula that will likely change
under the House bill, according to a committee aide.
Obama proposed in February spending $556 billion over six
years in the largest transportation plan in U.S. history. He
suggested creating an infrastructure bank and also chugging
ahead on plans to build a high-speed rail network.
The 2009 stimulus plan jump-started the high-speed rail
building with $8 billion and put about $40 billion total toward
transportation Much of that money has been spent.
One area where members of both parties and both chambers
can agree is TIFIA, which stands for Transportation
Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. Mica would like to
accelerate the application process for the low interest loans.
(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Leslie Adler)