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Smaller transportation bill passes U.S. House committee as talks stall on larger infrastructure package

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette logo Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 6/10/2021 By Julian Routh / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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As talks stall between the White House and Senate Republicans over a broader infrastructure bill, a five-year, $547 billion surface transportation measure floated by House Democrats — aimed at pouring money into the country’s roads, bridges, rail and public transit projects — received committee approval on Thursday and is set for a full chamber vote later this month.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved the legislation, 36 to 28, after a marathon markup hearing. U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Mt. Lebanon, voted yes. Pennsylvania’s two other members on the committee split their votes. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Levittown voted yes, and Rep. Scott Perry, R-Harrisburg, voted no.

The bill, representing a large increase in funding over the last transportation bill Congress passed in 2015, includes $343 billion for road and bridge construction, $109 billion for public transit and $95 billion for rail, according to a bill summary. It also contains environmental provisions that curb congestion, construct electric vehicle charging stations, enhance building codes and distribute $250 million in “climate innovation grants” to support local investments that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“America’s infrastructure is in desperate need of investment, and it’s our generation’s turn to step up to meet the challenge,” Mr. Lamb said in a statement. “I am committed to fighting for an infrastructure plan that focuses on job creation, that puts people back to work and that provides long-term investment here in Western Pennsylvania and across the country.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, calling the investment a “long-overdue action” that “will grow our economy and create millions of good jobs for American workers,” said the full chamber will take up the legislation for a vote the week of June 28, according to Politico.

The Senate, meanwhile, looks poised to “continue to build off the bipartisan legislation we’ve already passed on true infrastructure,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said this week — referring to her committee’s work last month to unanimously approve a surface transportation bill totaling $304 billion over five years.

The House bill, aimed — as Democrats said — at being “transformational” by folding in climate initiatives and revolutionizing the way Americans move, codifies funding for more than 1,400 local transportation projects submitted by members of both parties, including 22 projects totaling nearly $91 million in the Pittsburgh region.

That includes nearly $10 million for the Port Authority of Allegheny County to build a new parking garage at Carnegie Station, a project that is expected to create 200 full-time equivalent jobs and allow the agency to partner with a developer to add 200 parking spaces in a high-demand location. The project was one of four submissions in the bill by Mr. Lamb, whose separate amendments also included directing $100 million over five years to the University Rail Climate Innovation Institute.

U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, got four projects into the bill, including $5 million for PennDOT to make improvements to Boulevard of the Allies ramps in Uptown and $6 million for the city to improve the Hill District corridor of Centre, Wylie and Bedford avenues.

While the transportation committee’s chair Peter A. DeFazio, D-N.J., insisted that local officers are begging for more federal help, its top Republican — U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo. — had said the GOP’s members opposed the size of the bill. Republicans introduced a $400 billion surface transportation bill last month.

Julian Routh: jrouth@post- gazette.com, 412-263-1952, Twitter @julianrouth.

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