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A Deal for the Sake of a Deal?

Jul 28, 2021

Or How to Improve the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework for Good Policy, Not Politics

Negotiations over the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF) are advancing, and we must ensure that city voices are part of the final deal. As it stands, the BIF would largely continue the failed policies that make American transportation unsafe, unsustainable, and inequitable.

It may even cut the share of federal transit funding from an already-low 20%. We cannot let a deal for the sake of a deal undermine good policy.

In good news, the Senate already has a blueprint for fixing its business-as-usual approach. The House’s Invest in America Act (INVEST Act) is a transformative bill that would fix the federal transportation program’s structural flaws while investing in cities and in transit.

The Senate needs to hear from you on incorporating these key priorities into an updated bill:

  1. Prioritize maintenance that improves mobility (“fix it right”): The INVEST Act prioritizes highway maintenance and safety upgrades over laying yet more asphalt. With America facing a road repair backlog of $435 billion, federal highway funds should be dedicated to addressing the backlog, not making it bigger.
  2. Strengthen performance measures: Cities want, and America needs, to connect transportation funding to better outcomes: increased mobility, reduced emissions, and safer streets. In all too many instances, the “flexibility” offered by current metrics is an excuse to build more, and more dangerous, roads. Any future infrastructure bill or package must set ambitious targets to improve climate, equity, and safety outcomes.
  3. Expand local control: Cities are home to the majority of Americans and sites of innovation in transportation, yet they are not directly eligible for the majority of federal transportation funding, which is mostly channeled through state DOTs. Worse: States are, in many cases, empowered to push through projects within city boundaries that run counter to city goals, and over city opposition. The INVEST Act provides local governments with greater authority over the design and selection of projects within their borders and additional opportunities to directly receive federal funds. These provisions must be part of the Senate’s final package.
  4. Make strong investments in transit: Our nation’s economic recovery and our efforts to avert catastrophic climate change rely on reliable, convenient, ubiquitous public transit. And yet, Republicans in the Senate are pushing to reduce transit funding so it receives less than $1 for every $4 going to highways. Increasing federal investment in transit will win back riders, expand sustainable transportation options, and improve equity through access to opportunity. Any final package must increase, not reduce, the share of federal transportation dollars dedicated to transit.

For our economy, for our planet, for our future, we need real change now, not just five more years of pouring good money into outdated, counterproductive programs. The window is closing to make changes to the BIF. Please join us and take action today.

Your voice counts. Take a look at this list of key senators from 22 states across the country, from Alaska to Arizona to Washington and West Virginia. Live in one of those 22 states? Call the capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121, ask for your senator’s office, and let them know these four priorities that must be part of any final package. (We timed it: It takes just a few minutes!)

After, join us on social media. A coalition dedicated to ensuring transit isn’t shortchanged is using the hashtag #INVESTAct to showcase the forward-thinking proposals in the House’s approach. Take a few moments to add your voice.