We’ve been following the status of highway and transportation funding for quite some time, previously noting that Congress kept kicking the can down the road without agreeing on a long-term solution. Finally, that is no longer the case, as our colleagues on Nossaman’s Infra Insight Blog note that the House and Senate Conference Committees have agreed on a compromise $305 billion five-year surface transportation authorization: the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which is headed to the White House in the next few days. Check out Billy Moore’s post the Infra Insight Blog for a thorough, detailed discussion of the FAST Act, and where are the money comes from and is going. But here are a few key take-aways:
- The bill creates a Council on Credit and Finance responsible for reviewing applications for credit assistance programs, and creates the National Surface Transportation and Innovative Finance Bureau to administer the application process for these programs to reduce project delays.
- The bill creates a Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects (NSFHP) program, which is a new grant program that will provide federal grants of up 60 percent federal money for highway, bridge, rail-grade crossing, intermodal and freight rail projects costing more than $100 million that improve movement of both freight and people, increase competitiveness, reduce bottlenecks, and improve intermodal connectivity.
- The bill will streamline the environmental review and permitting process to accelerate project approvals and establishes a pilot program to allow up to five states to substitute their own environmental laws and regulations for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) if the state’s laws and regulations are at least as stringent as NEPA.