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Federal Infrastructure Update

Recently, the top Republican negotiator in a potential infrastructure deal, U.S. Senator from West Virginia Shelley Moore Capito, signaled positive conversations with the administration on efforts to reach a bipartisan deal that would avoid a partisan, reconciliation package pushed through Congress by Democrats.

In an interview, Sen. Capito said the next two weeks will be critical in determining whether there’ll be a deal with the White House. She doubted, however, that a bill can make it through the House and Senate by a July 4 deadline proposed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Sen. Capito and other Republicans met Tuesday with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, National Economic Adviser Brian Deese and other administration officials to discuss a revised Republican counteroffer to Biden’s $2.25 trillion infrastructure proposal, which married physical transportation improvements with social spending and corporate tax increases.

Republicans are set to increase their initial $568 billion counteroffer though have not given a specific on how high they are willing to go. Additionally, Capito said she expects the White House to respond to the GOP ideas, hopefully Thursday or Friday.

Additionally, House Republicans introduced their Surface Transportation reauthorization bill, the STARTER Act 2.0. (Section by Section) Unfortunately, an explicit Davis Bacon requirement is included on the BUILD Grants section, though the bill contains no PLA mandates and does contain ABC-supported federal permit streamlining language.

Here are some top lines of STARTER Act 2.0:

Surface Transportation

  • $400 billion reauthorization of FAST Act programs.
  • Increases the Private Activity Bonds cap from $15 billion to $45 billion.
  • Reauthorizes the discretionary grant program that promotes nationally and regionally significant infrastructure projects that improve the efficiency of freight movement (INFRA).
  • Makes permanent the BUILD Grant program, which funds multi-modal projects that encourage the economic viability of the Nation, a metropolitan area, or a region, and authorizes $1 billion per year for FY22-FY26.
    • Davis-Bacon requirement on projects funded under this section.

Environmental Reviews for Major Projects

  • Sets a government-wide goal of limiting the time required for environmental reviews and authorization for major infrastructure projects to two years from the publication of a notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS), to issuance of a record of decision (ROD) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
  • Requires federal agencies to develop a single permitting timetable for environmental review and authorization decision. (One Federal Decision).
  • Sets page limits of 150 pages for an EIS, and 75 pages for an environmental assessment (EA).
  • Permits a project sponsor to assist agencies in conducting environmental reviews to help speed up the process and to resolve issues without taking control or authority away from the lead agency.
  • When determining whether the effects of a Federal action are significant, agencies must only consider the reasonably foreseeable effects with a reasonably close causal relationship to the action being considered and may not consider the cumulative effects of the action in conjunction with other actions.

Surface Transportation System Funding Alternatives

  • Encourages more states and groups of states to participate in the program while building on the successful state pilots to-date.
  • Expands the focus on data collection and analysis to deliver actionable recommendations to begin implementing a national VMT program.
  • Creates a national pilot program established by DOT, in consultation with the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) to test vehicle miles travelled (VMT) reporting systems and revenue collection mechanisms.