House committee passes a new kind of transportation bill: the INVEST Act

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After two days of debate, the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure passed its proposal for long-term surface transportation policy last week. The INVEST Act starts the work of updating our broken federal transportation program by prioritizing maintenance, safety, access, climate, and equity. T4America thanks Chairman Peter DeFazio for leading this effort and we urge the House to pass this modern bill next week. 

For decades, federal transportation policy has sung the same tired tune: if we spend more money (that we don’t have) on building new roads (that we don’t need), our transportation problems will solve themselves. But they’ve only gotten worse. Inequitable access to jobs and services, congestion that only gets worse, more and more people killed while walking and biking, astronomical maintenance needs, increasing emissions—you name it. 

But last week, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) passed a bill that starts to change this story. The INVEST (Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation) in America Act takes a markedly different approach to transportation policy that would begin to put outcomes—instead of price tags—at the center of our decision making. 

“Chair Rep. Peter DeFazio has done a tremendous job crafting a new kind of transportation bill,” said Beth Osborne, director of Transportation for America. “Change on this scale is notoriously difficult to achieve, but the House T&I Committee pulled it off. We thank Chair DeFazio and the House T&I Committee for their work and urge the full House to pass the INVEST Act. We especially recognize the hard work of Representatives Jesús ‘Chuy’ García and Mike Gallagher in introducing and supporting an amendment to strengthen the maintenance requirement in the bill, respectively.” 

The full House of Representatives will likely vote on the INVEST Act next week; if passed, the bill would rewrite our country’s transportation rules for the next five years. T4America is pleased to support this exciting bill and strongly recommend that House legislators vote in its support. 

What does the INVEST Act actually do?

The INVEST Act starts the work of connecting transportation funding to the outcomes communities need from their transportation systems: improved access, decreased emissions, safer and well-maintained roads and more. Here’s the rundown. 

  • Maintenance: Sets aside funds for repair and requires states to fulfill conditions (which includes performance measures for state of good repair and others) before  building or expanding roads.
  • Safety: Takes aggressive action to make our streets safer with everything from new street design standards to changing how speed limits are set.
  • Access: Focus transportation planning on multimodal access so people outside of cars are no longer left behind.
  • Equity:  Prioritizes safety—especially for people struck and killed while walking which disproportionately affects low-income people and people of color—, requires that every state establish a vulnerable road user safety assessment, and reserves transit funding to serve areas of persistent poverty.
  • Climate. Takes a holistic approach to addressing climate change through new performance measures and grant programs.

In addition to our four key amendments that we were tracking (of which only the repair amendment was approved), here are the others that we were keeping a particularly close eye on.

We’ll have more shortly, including a quick look at a few important things to know about the INVEST Act, and how the INVEST Act stacks up against the Senate’s reauthorization proposal from last year. 

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