Shuster proposal aims to ‘reignite’ reform efforts

INFRASTRUCTURE
Shuster proposal aims to ‘reignite’ reform efforts
Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter
Published: Tuesday, July 24, 2018
 
House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) yesterday released a draft infrastructure bill in an effort to reinvigorate stalled momentum on the issue.
 
The draft language contains a plethora of proposals for addressing the nation’s “crumbling infrastructure” — a familiar refrain on the Hill.
 
One proposal involves establishing a pilot program for a “per-mile” user fee — an alternative to raising the federal gasoline tax. Oregon started a voluntary program in 2015 to charge a 1.7-cent-per-mile tax for using public roads (Greenwire, Feb. 22). A common complaint about Trump’s plan was that it lacked pay-fors.
 
Another proposal involves creating a 15-member Highway Trust Fund Commission. Some of its members would be appointed by lawmakers, while others would be selected by the secretary of Transportation.
 
The commission would be tasked with conducting a study that “identifies the current and future needs of the Nation’s surface transportation system,” among other things.
 
The draft legislation would also codify President Trump’s Aug. 15, 2017, executive order on streamlining the permitting process for large infrastructure projects. It would seek to limit the timetable for National Environmental Policy Act reviews to two years.
 
In a statement, Shuster said he was “frustrated” by the lack of progress on Trump’s plan floated in February, which called for a $200 billion federal investment to leverage investment from the private sector.
 
“The 2016 presidential campaign shined a spotlight on America’s crumbling infrastructure,” Shuster said. “Since election day, the American people have waited for action by their federal elected representatives, and I am just as frustrated as they are that we have yet to seriously consider a responsible, thoughtful proposal.”
 
While Shuster hopes to push through a broad infrastructure bill before he leaves Congress at the end of the year, it would be a heavy political lift. Floor time is typically limited during the second half of an election year, as are congressional appetites for tackling major legislation.
 
Still, Shuster said he was hopeful that his proposal would at least be a conversation starter for his colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
 
“This discussion draft does not represent a complete and final infrastructure bill,” he said.
“It is meant to reignite discussions amongst my colleagues, and I urge all Members to be open-minded and willing to work together in considering real solutions that will give America the modern day infrastructure it needs.”