Senate Panel Looks at Build America Bureau and USDOT Rural Initiative

Senate Panel Looks at Build America Bureau and USDOT Rural Initiative

January 31, 2020  | Alice Grossman

The Senate Subcommittee on Transportation and Safety echoed the current administration’s concentration on rural America by holding a hearing on January 28 on Building Infrastructure in America: Overview of the Build America Bureau and the U.S. Department of Transportation Rural Transportation Initiatives. The hearing focused on initiatives that support infrastructure investment in rural areas including the TIFIA Rural Projects Initiative (RPI), RRIF Express, and the new Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success (ROUTES) initiative. The testimonies and questions followed more along the lines of how to best use these programs to support rural communities rather than on how the federal funds are or should be spent.

Witnesses included:

Committee members and witnesses drew on USDOT traffic fatality statistics and the ASCE Infrastructure Report Card to emphasize the need for infrastructure maintenance and building. While TIFIA RIP and RRIF Express are established Build America Bureau programs, Secretary Chao announced ROUTES in October, 2019. Much of the hearing focused on the activities stemming from the new initiative, and witnesses from USDOT impressed upon the potential benefits to develop from conversations initiated through technical assistance from The Bureau for rural communities. Discussions of financing with TIFIA RPI and RRIF mainly focused on the national importance of ports and shortline railroads to support the US economy and play a role in disaster relief.

USDOT witnesses framed the need for more support in rural America in the context of safety concerns from fatal crashes in rural areas, and the need to support more projects there. They suggested that urban areas are “better equipped” to apply for Federal funds, and noted that communities that have a history with working with USDOT had a higher success rate in receiving funds than agencies applying for the first time.  They hope that outreach through ROUTES can help communities develop a better understanding and capacity for how to access Federal dollars and what to expect from the application and implementation processes.

One of the main sources of confusion among potential recipients may stem from the early stage of applying for USDOT funds in merely discerning eligibility for various funding and financing programs. There are currently nine USDOT programs that distinguish between eligibility for urban and rural communities, and there are nearly as many definitions of rural community. Diving into the reasons behind the varied definitions could help identify when the various definitions are appropriate and advantageous to supporting national goals, and where there might be opportunities eliminate unnecessary variation or at least provide information and technical assistance that is easier to access and understand.

When asked about expanding eligibility for the Federal loan programs under discussion, USDOT witnesses responded confidently that their report on allowing airports to request TIFIA funds will be a thorough and useful foundation, albeit a couple years tardy. Members and witnesses did agree on the potential need to raise the cap on available loans to allow for larger projects, at ports or otherwise.

Share

Related Articles

Trump Team Drafted FY21 BUILD and INFRA Funding Notices with New Transparency Requirements

Trump Team Drafted FY21 BUILD and INFRA Funding Notices with New Transparency Requirements

As some of their last official actions, the Trump Administration at the U.S. Department of Transportation expedited the drafting of notices...

Transportation Is Spared from Last Proposed Trump Budget Cuts

Transportation Is Spared from Last Proposed Trump Budget Cuts

The White House Office of Management and Budget last night sent Congress a list of spending cuts totaling $27.4 billion. President Trump...

Federal Borrowing for Infrastructure Funding - How Could It Be Done?

Federal Borrowing for Infrastructure Funding - How Could It Be Done?

“With real interest rates at zero or below, shouldn’t the federal government just borrow the money to pay for something worthwhile,...

With Unified Democratic Control, Can

With Unified Democratic Control, Can "Budget Reconciliation" Be Used for Infrastructure?

Now that Democrats have won both Georgia Senate runoff elections, and will have the barest of Senate majorities to go along with a slim...

Final FY21 Appropriations Provide More Water Infrastructure Funding Increases

Final FY21 Appropriations Provide More Water Infrastructure Funding Increases

The omnibus appropriations act for fiscal year 2021 provided another round of funding increases for Corps of Engineers water infrastructure...

Webinar Recap: Transportation Spending and Planning in the Time of COVID

Webinar Recap: Transportation Spending and Planning in the Time of COVID

The coronavirus pandemic has hammered state and municipal budgets across the United States. A recent analysis from the National League of...

Webinar: Transportation Spending and Planning in the Time of COVID

Webinar: Transportation Spending and Planning in the Time of COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic hammered state and municipal budgets across the United States. A recent analysis by the National League of Cities...

House Passes Mammoth Infrastructure Bill With No Clear Path Forward

House Passes Mammoth Infrastructure Bill With No Clear Path Forward

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2, the $1.5 trillion, five-year infrastructure bill assembled by Democratic leaders, by...

Road to Recovery Webinar: John Porcari

Road to Recovery Webinar: John Porcari

This webinar is led by John Porcari, who served as the Deputy Secretary of Transportation during the 2009 recession. He will discuss his...

USDOT Gives Out Final Installment of FAST Act INFRA Grants

USDOT Gives Out Final Installment of FAST Act INFRA Grants

The U.S. Department of Transportation this week announced 20 additional projects that will share $906 million in funding under the INFRA...

Rapid Response Webinar: The House Surface Transportation Bill: Initial Overview

Rapid Response Webinar: The House Surface Transportation Bill: Initial Overview

Eno’s Jeff Davis summarizes the funding levels and major programmatic changes under the $490 billion surface transportation authorization...

White House Wants Permitting Reform in Next Coronavirus Bill

White House Wants Permitting Reform in Next Coronavirus Bill

Last Friday night (May 15), well after ETW had gone out, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6800, the "Heroes Act" that would spend...

Be Part of the Conversation
Sign up to receive news, events, publications, and course notifications.
No thanks