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Keeping an Eye on Transportation Legislation in Washington
Three things that happened in Washington in May:
1. The Senate is pushing to get their Automated Vehicle Legislation passed.
The League has been advocating for the bill to require automated vehicles to pass a “vision test” before they hit the market. The test would require automated vehicle manufacturers to prove their vehicles can both detect and respond to bicyclists, pedestrians and people in wheelchairs.
2. The House Appropriations committee passed the Transportation, HUD budget for Fiscal year 2019. (October 1, 2018- September 30, 2019).
The League has continually advocated for funding increases to the TIGER program. The funding was increased in 2018 but then the DOT made changes that could make it harder for bicycling and walking projects.
The House bill from this month includes new rules for the BUILD program, which should be good for complete streets and bicycling and walking projects. The House funds the program at $750 million. That is a cut from the 2018 budget, but is higher than any other previous year.
The Senate is working on their version of this bill, and then the House and Senate bills will be combined to provide a compromise budget.
3. Effort to repeal a gas tax increase in California fails.
In 2017, California joined 25 other states and the district in Columbia in raising its gas tax to fund transportation infrastructure — including bicycling and walking infrastructure. This year, California Representative and Gubernatorial candidate Trevor Allen led an effort to get a repeal of the gas tax on the November 6, 2018, ballot to repeal the tax increases.
The League is following this issue because the League supports an increase in the gas tax if it goes to multi-modal transportation, and many state and local bicycling advocacy organizations have supported ballot initiatives to increase transportation funding. The loss in California is another data point on the support for increasing investment in transportation.
Three things to Watch in June:
1. Will the Senate find a compromise on the AV Start Act?
The sponsors of the AV START Act (Sens. Peters (D-MI) and Thune (R-SD) are negotiating with five Senators opposing the bill because of safety concerns: Blumenthal (D-CT), Feinstein (D-CA), Gillibrand (D-NY), Markey (D-MA) and Udall (D-NM).
The League is advocating for safety improvements that will help bicyclists and pedestrian safety. Watch the League blog for potential improvements to the bill.
2. What will the Senate Transportation, HUD Appropriations bill (THUD) say about the BUILD (TIGER) program?
The Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate THUD Sen. Collins (R-ME) and Reed (D-RI) recently sent a public letter to Transportation Secretary Chao stating their concerns with Chao’s changes to the TIGER program. We saw the House respond this month, but we expect the Senate to also make changes to BUILD. Hopefully those changes will make the program more bicycling friendly.
The League supports efforts to ensure the funding goes to multi-modal projects.
3. Another run on an infrastructure package?
House Transportation Committee Chairman Shuster (R-PA) has stated that his committee will be working on “plans for infrastructure investment.” In addition, House Majority Leader McCarthy (R- CA), has listed infrastructure on the House leadership priorities.
While most Congress watchers are convinced a big infrastructure package is dead, there is an effort to pass smaller bills already in the pipeline. The League will promote its infrastructure principles in any relevant legislation.