WASHINGTON, D.C.—A new plan to reauthorize national surface transportation funding and infrastructure investment includes several key measures to benefit Arizona. The Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act, released today by the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, authorizes nearly $500 billion over five years to address some of the nation’s most urgent infrastructure needs. Arizona would receive an estimated $992 million in transit funding and $5.27 billion in highway funding over the life of the bill.
Throughout his freshman term, Rep. Greg Stanton, the only Arizona member on the Committee, has advocated for statewide infrastructure projects and policies to be included in the reauthorization bill.
“Arizona is one of the fastest growing states in the country, and for too long we haven’t been getting our fair share of federal dollars,” said Stanton. “We’ve included several key investments in this bill that will expand public transit in communities that need it, build and repair roads on tribal lands, support sustainable construction, and create jobs.”
Stanton has made it a top priority to push for short and long-term investments in projects that would benefit Arizonans and strengthen the state’s economy.
- Funding for tribal road construction and infrastructure improvement: The proposed bill provides increased funding for the Tribal Transportation Program, providing $800 million a year. It also transforms the Nationally Significant Federal and Tribal Projects Program, which provides funding for the construction and rehabilitation of nationally significant projects within tribal lands and that create access to tribal lands. The bill makes important changes to allow more tribes to access the program by lowing the minimum project cost threshold to $5 million and increasing the federal cost share to 100 percent. The program would be funded at $400 million annually, an increase of $300 million over current levels and dedicates half of the funds to tribal projects. Improving infrastructure in tribal lands has been a priority of Stanton’s. He visited the Navajo Nation last summer to survey the vast number of unpaved roadways and has advocated for these investments during Committee hearings.
- Tribal High Priority Projects: To assist tribes whose annual transportation funding is insufficient to undertake their high priority transportation projects, the bill provides $50 million to reestablish a grant program to award grants for these projects.
- Office of Tribal Government Affairs: The bill establishes an Office of Tribal Government Affairs within the U.S. Department of Transportation and creates a new Assistant Secretary for Tribal Government Affairs that will be responsible for overseeing the administration of the Tribal Transportation Self Governance Program, policies, and programs serving Indian tribes. Stanton advocated for this office with Republican Don Young of Alaska in a letter to DOT Secretary Chao earlier this year.
- Funding for transit projects in smaller communities: The reauthorization includes a provision to increase the set-aside from 2 percent to 3 for the Small Transit Intensive Communities program, which helps communities such as Flagstaff and Casa Grande in Arizona fund local public transit projects. Stanton advocated for the set-aside increase in a bipartisan bill he introduced last August. The funding increase would take effect in fiscal year 2022.
- Steps to make infrastructure construction in Arizona more sustainable: The bill includes an act introduced by Stanton, the bipartisan Rebuilding Our Communities by Keeping Aggregates Sustainable (ROCKS) Act, which would require the Secretary of Transportation to establish a working group of federal, state, tribal, local and industry stakeholders to assess the availability of transportation-related construction materials, like aggregates and recommend practices and policies to ensure continued access to this important resource. The measure is especially important in Arizona, where rapid population growth has created pressure on aggregates producers to supply materials needed to develop infrastructure quickly and on a large scale.
- Projects of Regional And National Significance: The bill establishes a Projects of National Significance program which will provide more than $9 billion for large highway, transit, and passenger and freight rail projects and prioritize funding for critical regional infrastructure projects such as I-11, which proposes to connect the Phoenix metro to Las Vegas.
The bill includes a number of other measures to tackle the nation’s massive backlog of roads, bridges, and transit systems in need of repair and replacement. It emphasizes investment in resilient infrastructure that will withstand the impacts of climate change and extreme weather, as well as sharp increases in funding for public transit options in urban, suburban and rural areas.
Stanton noted that the INVEST in America Act also accounts for the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. “We have to act now to ensure our states, cities, tribes, and transit agencies have the resources they need to administer programs, advance projects, and preserve jobs in the aftermath of the global health crisis. We can’t afford to delay these investments—especially because we know they will pay dividends back into local economies that need help.”
The current surface transportation authorization expires September 30. The Committee will consider the bill in a markup scheduled for Wednesday, June 17.