- July 30, 2019

Barrasso’s Highway Infrastructure Legislation Includes Important Wyoming Priorities

by Jackson Hole Radio News
U.S. Senator John Barrasso has introduced America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019. The bill includes several key provisions for Wyoming. The legislation is the largest highway bill in history, and will make significant investments to maintain and repair Wyoming’s roads and bridges, grow the economy, protect wildlife, and make roads safer. Barrasso is working with Senate leaders to ensure the legislation is paid for. The EPW Committee will markup the legislation at a business meeting on July 30.

Barrasso is chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW).

“America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act will make a historic investment in Wyoming’s roads and bridges,” said Barrasso. “Since his election, President Trump has called on Congress to fix the nation’s infrastructure. This bipartisan legislation answers the president’s call. The legislation prioritizes projects like the I-80 and I-25 interchange outside of Cheyenne. These major highway projects are critical to Wyoming’s economy and make the roads safer for every driver. The bill will help construct safer tribal roads for communities on the Wind River Reservation. It will also help reduce the number of accidents that involve animals by improving wildlife crossings. I look forward to working with the people of Wyoming to advance this landmark legislation for our state.”

“Chairman Barrasso’s legislation includes increased funding, so that we can better meet the transportation needs of people and businesses throughout Wyoming,” said Luke Reiner, director of the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT). “Whether our highways are moving people driving to work or seeing the doctor, or tourists visiting our scenic state, or carrying commercial trucks full of groceries or cattle, under the legislation WYDOT will be able to do more to improve the route. Reforms in the bill will allow us to be more efficient–to complete work more promptly and with fewer regulatory costs. This legislation is extremely positive for Wyoming.”

Wyoming provisions in America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act would:

• Reduce the federal regulatory burden on WYDOT, including eliminating federal congestion data collection requirements on low population rural states like Wyoming, that do not have significant congestion.

• Ensure projects get built faster by establishing a 2-year goal for completion of environmental reviews and provide for a single environmental document and record of decision to be signed by all participating agencies.

• Allow the Secretary of the Interior to expedite the permitting of gathering lines for oil and gas wells on federal land and, with tribal consent, Indian lands. Gathering lines reduce venting, flaring, and other emissions of methane. They also take heavy-duty truck traffic off the roads. This means more revenue for Wyoming, fewer emissions of methane, carbon dioxide, black carbon and other pollutants into the environment, and safer roads for communities nearby oil and gas fields.

• Protect Wyoming’s share of highway formula dollars, and increase the overall amount of Wyoming’s formula share to more than $1.6 billion over five years. This will provide funding flexibility and certainty for WYDOT to deliver critical road and bridge projects throughout the state.

• Provide an additional $1.65 billion in new transportation project grant money over 5-years for rural areas and guarantees $247 million for small projects.

• Ensure that critical Western interstate interchange projects such as the new I-25, I-80 interchange outside of the city of Cheyenne receive prioritization under INFRA.

• Provide $250 million in funding for a nation-wide pilot program to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and construct wildlife crossing structures.

• Provide Wyoming more new formula funding to protect roads and bridges from natural disasters such as wildfires and rockslides and extreme weather events such as flooding.

• The bill sets aside $100 million over five years to for tribal bridge projects.

• The bill authorizes $250 million out of the Highway Trust Fund and $1.5 billion from the general fund for the construction, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of nationally-significant transportation projects and facilities within, adjacent to, or accessing Federal and tribal lands.

Background Information:

On July 10, 2019, Luke Reiner, director of WYDOT, testified before the EPW committee at a hearing titled “Investing in America’s Surface Transportation Infrastructure: The Need for a Multi-Year Reauthorization Bill.” In his testimony, Reiner outlined the importance of rural priorities, formula funding, and the reduction of federal regulations in highway infrastructure legislation.

America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019 would:

• Reauthorize highway programs before the current funding authorizations included in the FAST Act expire;

• Provide $287 billion in highway spending over five years – more than a 27% increase above the FAST Act – in critical funding to help improve our nation’s road and bridge infrastructure;

• Protect States’ shares of formula funding, and guarantee that each state receives increased funding;

• Distribute 90% of funding to states by formula, and expand the flexibility and eligible uses of formula funds;

• Decrease burdensome regulations that slow project delivery;

• Codify the Trump Administration’s “One Federal Decision” policy to accelerate project delivery;

• Address significant highway infrastructure needs in tribal communities and on federal lands.

Read the text of the bill here.

Read the section-by-section of the bill here.

Read a comprehensive summary the bill here.

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