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Senate Highway Bill, WRDA Report Nearing Introduction

Despite partisan bickering and the upcoming midterm elections, lawmakers are demonstrating an ability to move forward on key infrastructure investment proposals, according to the Associated Equipment Distributors.

The Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee’s surface transportation reauthorization bill and a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) conference report are reportedly set for unveiling as early as this week.

The Senate highway bill is expected to be a multiyear bipartisan effort, supported by the EPW Committee’s surface transportation “big four” [Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), David Vitter (R-La.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)]. No details about the bill have been released publicly, but it’s a good bet the legislation will seek to maintain current investment levels (roughly $40 billion per year for highways and $10 billion for transit) and provide annual bump-ups for inflation.

While EPW’s reauthorization portion makes up a substantial majority of a final surface transportation bill, other Senate panels must act also. Both the Senate Finance Committee (jurisdiction over user fees) and Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation (jurisdiction over rail and road safety) are holding hearings this week to consider policies for its highway bill components. The Senate Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs Committee also needs to draft the transit portion of the legislation.

As highway program reauthorization heats up, WRDA is expected to wind down in the short term. House and Senate conferees charged with negotiating a final water resources bill are putting the finishing touches on legislation to authorize Army Corps of Engineers programs, including waterway and watershed management projects, such as construction of locks and dams. Both the House and Senate passed WRDA bills with broad, bipartisan support and it’s anticipated the final conference report will garner similar backing.