WASHINGTON — Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, this week introduced a legislative proposal to fund and build new infrastructure projects across the country.
The bill, known as the Build USA Infrastructure Act, would address future infrastructure funding shortfalls and provide states with greater flexibility to navigate regulatory burdens that have long delayed critical projects.
Fisher said that according to the March 2016 projections by the Congressional Budget Office, by the year 2026, the Highway Trust Fund will face a cumulative shortfall of approximately $107 billion.
The Build USA Infrastructure Act would divert $21.4 billion annually in Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) collected revenues on freight and passengers to address the shortfall for five years following the expiration of the latest long-term highway bill.
Fisher said the Build USA Infrastructure Act is modeled after her Fischer’s legislative success in developing innovative, sustainable transportation funding solutions in the Nebraska Unicameral, including the Build Nebraska Act and the Federal Funds Purchase Program.
Nebraska is initiating and completing projects at a faster pace because of these measures, she said.
“Funding challenges and the burdensome federal regulatory approval process have delayed infrastructure projects across America for decades. It’s time for a new approach,” Fisher said. I’m proud to put forward this legislation, which is modeled after proven successes in accelerating major transportation projects throughout Nebraska. The Build USA Infrastructure Act is a responsible, forward-looking proposal to strengthen roads, bridges, and highways for the benefit of the American families and workers who use them every day.”
To help states get projects up and running at a faster pace, the bill establishes voluntary “state remittance agreements” with the Federal Highway Administration. As part of these agreements, states may choose to exchange a portion of their federal highway dollars for greater control over certain aspects of federal regulatory approval for highway projects.
“Our states face significant challenges in starting and completing infrastructure projects because of excessive procedural costs and delays associated with federal approval,” Fisher said.
According to the Congressional Research Service, major federal-aid highway projects can take as long as 14 years from start to finish.
States need more flexibility, improved collaboration, and greater autonomy to help them begin building vital infrastructure project, the senator said.
Under the Build USA Infrastructure Act, states would be given opportunities to enter into agreements with FHWA. In return for remitting 10 percent of their federal-aid highway dollars, states would receive control over federal approval for the design, environmental permitting, and construction aspects of federal highway projects. The remitted funds would be deposited into the Highway Trust Fund to help address its growing deficit.