Norton Outlines Major Victories for D.C. and the Nation in the Moving Forward Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In light of interest in the highways and transit provisions of the Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2), which the House passed 233 to 188 earlier this month, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today laid out major wins for the District of Columbia and the nation in H.R. 2. Numerous areas, ranging from typical matters like bridge and highway funding to new funding for congestion reduction, climate change and innovation, make the highways and transit provisions of H.R. 2 a clean break from prior bills. As Chair of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, Norton played a leading role in writing the bill, which, in addition to containing unprecedented provisions on schools, housing and broadband access, is the vehicle for the reauthorization of major programs related to highways, bridges, transit and rail.
The bill authorizes $494 billion over five years to strengthen the nation’s infrastructure and fund new, innovative projects. $411 billion of this total will come from the Highway Trust Fund and will support highways, bridges, transit, safety and research programs, a 46% increase from FAST Act funding levels. The bill also triples funding for Amtrak and authorizes another 10 years of dedicated federal funding for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro), but at a higher funding level.
The bill also responds to the COVID-19 health crisis by making the first year of federal surface transportation funding (FY 2021; $80 billion) available under current programs and at a 100% federal match. This will eliminate the need for local matching funds and help state and local governments minimize disruptions to transportation programs and preserve employment. The surface transportation policy changes outlined in the bill will take effect on October 1, 2021.
“I thank my partners in this bill, Chair Peter DeFazio and Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chair Dan Lipinski, for their leadership and collaboration with me on this legislation from initial drafting to the bill’s recent passage in the House,” Norton said. This legislation will provide states and regional planning organizations with the certainty they need to confidently plan for the long-term infrastructure investment that is so urgently needed. I am very pleased that my priorities for innovations in climate change, road user safety, and emerging technologies such as shared scooters and Transportation Network Companies like Uber and Lyft are featured prominently throughout this legislation. Equally important are provisions such as the grant program designed to encourage states to combat racial profiling in highway law enforcement and the reauthorization of the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program, both of which are important legislative responses to the continuing injustices experienced by minorities on a regular basis. I am proud to have reauthorized long-term, dedicated federal funding for Metro, which is critical to our ongoing work to maintain the system for District residents, as well as for the numerous federal employees from throughout the region who rely on Metro for their daily commutes. We have taken a great step forward by passing legislation that is responsive to, and reflective of, the changing 21st century transportation landscape. I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues in the Senate to move this legislation forward as soon as possible.”
Below are some of Norton’s priorities included in the Moving Forward Act:
Increased Long-Term Funding
The bill authorizes $411 billion over five years out of the Highway Trust Fund in support of highways, bridges, transit, safety and research programs. This funding level is a 46% increase from FAST Act funding levels.
Dedicated Funding for Metro and Increased Autonomy for the Metro Inspector General
The bill reauthorizes long-term, dedicated funding for Metro for 10 years. Funding begins at $150 million in year one and gradually increases to $200 million in year 10. This funding is conditioned upon the Metro Board passing resolutions to provide the Metro Office of Inspector General with greater independence in the areas of budget authority, procurement authority, hiring authority, and access to independent legal counsel, along with other reforms. The legislation also requires the Metro Board of Directors to provide at least 30 days written notice to Congress before the removal of the Inspector General along with documentation outlining the cause for removal.
The bill provides $29 billion for Amtrak over five years, an amount that triples Amtrak funding from prior levels. These funds will support the expansion of the Amtrak network and provide much-needed investments in Amtrak stations, facilities, services and equipment. Amtrak stations throughout the Northeast Corridor, including Union Station, stand to benefit greatly from these investments.
Protections Against Assaults on Transit Workers
The bill requires transit agencies to address the growing issue of assaults on transit workers in their annual safety plans and requires these safety plans to be approved by a safety committee comprised of representatives from both labor and management. This provision is of particular significance in light of the prevalence of assaults on transit workers throughout the nation and in the District of Columbia, which has seen an increased number of assaults on Metrobus operators in recent years.
Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program
The bill reauthorizes the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program and provides updated information on the continued challenges of race and gender discrimination that make the DBE program necessary. The program ensures minority- and women-owned businesses are able to fairly compete for U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) contracts.
Road User Safety Reforms
The bill requires states with the highest levels of bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities to allocate funds to improve safety for vulnerable users. The District of Columbia, which has experienced an increase in traffic-related fatalities in recent years, would be required to set-aside funds for improved safety for bicyclists and pedestrians under this rule.
This legislation also codifies and expands eligibilities for the Safe Routes to Schools program. This provision includes a clarification that non-infrastructure investments, such as the personal safety initiatives being implemented in the District, are also eligible for funding.
The bill provides $7.5 million in funding to encourage states to enact laws that prohibit the use of racial profiling in highway law enforcement and to collect data on the race and ethnicity of the driver and passengers in motor vehicle stops.
Federal Lands Transportation Program
The bill significantly increases funding for the Federal Lands Transportation Program for a total of $550 million per year out of the Highway Trust Fund. The Federal Lands Transportation Program includes the National Park Service (NPS), which is of great benefit to the District given the many roads in the District that are owned by NPS.
The bill creates a $250 million gridlock reduction program for large metro areas, which also includes a set-aside for freight with the goal of increasing urban freight mobility. The District is eligible for this program.
The bill promotes increased motor carrier safety by directing the DOT Secretary to complete a rulemaking to require Automatic Emergency Braking in all newly manufactured commercial motor vehicles. The legislation also directs the Secretary to strengthen rear underride guard standards and consider the feasibility and costs of installing side underride guards. The legislation further requires the Secretary to provide regular updates to Congress on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s implementation of the long-delayed rule on entry-level driver training.
The bill more than doubles funding for technology and innovation deployment, increases funding for the Intelligent Transportation Systems Program and supports research on automated vehicles.
Climate Change and Resilience
Climate change and resilience provisions, Norton priorities, run throughout the bill. The bill requires states to establish a new greenhouse gas emissions performance measure, provides over $8 billion to support carbon pollution reduction, provides over $6 billion to support resilience and emergency evacuation initiatives and provides $1.4 billion for discretionary grants for Electric Vehicle Charging and Hydrogen Fueling Infrastructure grants.
Alternative Funding Sources
The bill nearly doubles funding for Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) pilot programs across the country and establishes a national VMT pilot program. This exploration of alternative funding sources is critical given the ongoing shortfall within the primary source of funding for highways and transit programs, the Highway Trust Fund. The Highway Trust Fund is financed primarily through taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel. However, a confluence of factors, including a federal gas tax that has not been raised since 1993, improved fuel efficiency and the emergence of hybrid and electric vehicles, has caused expenditures from the Highway Trust Fund to greatly outpace revenue. While Congress has maintained the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund through transfers from the U.S. Treasury general fund, the exploration of alternative funding sources such as VMT charges, is critical to Congress’ ongoing search for a long-term solution.
The bill promotes intermodal investments by establishing federal rules for Mobility on Demand that provide transit agencies with greater flexibility to use federal dollars on Mobility on Demand services such as shared bicycles, shared scooters and first mile-last mile Transportation Network Company rides.