The Surface Transportation Advanced Through Reform, Technology, and Efficient Review (STARTER) Act 2.0 is likely to replace an expiring highway law. This legislation would allocate $400 billion over five years for surface transportation programs.
On May 19th, Republican lawmakers released the outline of the bill, which would implement or extend programs for the trucking industry, autonomous technology, self-driving vehicles, and overall highway funding.
The bill would also work to make the process easier in regards to federal environmental permitting as part of the surface transportation proposal backed by Democrats. Such a highway policy bill aligns with the infrastructure-related plans of the Biden Administration, and the House transportation panel’s Democrats are likely to assess their version of the bill by the end of May.
“Our bill focuses on the core infrastructure that helps move people and goods through our communities every single day, cuts red tape that holds up project construction, and gets resources into the hands of our states and locals with as few strings attached as possible,” explained chief sponsor of the bill, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee ranking member Sam Graves of Missouri.
Many supporters of the bill have noted its capacity to draw backing from both parties.
“As the process for considering legislation on infrastructure moves forward, I am eager to see these proposals become part of a robust bipartisan effort, just as the president continues to call for,” Graves added.
The measure also aims to set forth an efficient infrastructure grants program, as well as mandate that organizations create an environmental review permitting timetable. It would also work toward updating the current national highway freight plan.
“Streaming the federal permitting and environmental review process absolutely must be a part of an infrastructure package,” Rodney Davis, ranking member of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, noted.
For states looking to find ways to fully optimize truck parking capabilities, the bill could also boost the resources available. Additionally, it could also implement an interstate driving training program for commercial driver’s license holders between the ages of 18 and 20–an initiative that would also create higher standards for carriers’ best practices.
For livestock haulers and farm operations, this legislation would also be able to increase hours-of-service regulation flexibility and allocate specific funding solely to programs based in rural regions.
To do this, the bill “provides greater flexibility and supports greater mobility in rural areas by increasing the federal share of project costs for projects located in qualified opportunity zones, in medically underserved areas, or areas with medically underserved populations,” explaining a summary of the measure.
Through this legislation, the Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-Saving Transportation (PROTECT) grant program regarding the aid of areas affected by natural disasters would come into play, as would a nationwide vehicle-miles-traveled fee system and a connected vehicle applications-based competitive grant program.
“This legislation puts true transportation infrastructure first and prioritizes building a resilient transit system,” explained co-sponsor of the bill and ranking member of the Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee, Rick Crawford of Arkansas.
For committee chairman Peter DeFazio, the ideal version of the legislation would set forth mobility grid upgrades–especially in regards to transit systems. For his five-year 2015 highway law update, DeFazio recommends $100 billion for transit state-of-good repair criteria needing attention.
“America is facing serious challenges: crumbling infrastructure, the threat of climate change, inequality and racial justice, a rising China that threatens our domestic workforce and manufacturing,” he explained. “We can’t solve these problems by doing the status quo.”
Still, Republicans want to focus on surface transportation policies and have been collaborating with the White House to determine the best courses of actions in regards to funding and infrastructure policy negotiations.
“We believe we can find a bipartisan deal on infrastructure,” said President Biden. “But we’ve made one thing clear: We’ll compromise, but doing nothing is not an option.”
Senate Republicans recently released their strategy which would center upon a $600 billion policy plan, while Biden’s plan requests $2.25 trillion and aims to do acquire such funding by boosting corporate taxes.