The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday unanimously passed a $303.5 billion bill focused on national highway programs.
The Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act authorizes five years of funding for highway improvements as well as addressing climate change and rural transportation. The proposal also serves as a possible cornerstone of a legislative transportation package.
Committee Chairman Tom Carper, D-Del., and Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., set a deadline in February to have a transportation bill ready by Memorial Day.
“I have always been optimistic that we would get here, but I’m absolutely thrilled that we reached a bipartisan agreement that will address our nation’s surface transportation needs,” Capito said Wednesday ahead of the 20-0 vote.
Congress previously authorized a surface transportation bill in 2015; lawmakers opted last year to extend the measure by one year, and the extension will expire Sept. 30.
The Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act increases funding for essential highway and bridge programs by 34% compared to the 2015 measure. It also dedicates more than $18 billion for efforts aimed at reducing transportation emissions, such as electric vehicle charging, public transportation and infrastructure for bicycling and walking. Rural communities would be eligible for $2 billion for improving and expanding transportation systems.