Washington, D.C.—House Democrats have offered their opening bid for a massive infrastructure package by introducing a $1.5 trillion proposal that includes billions of dollars for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to address its backlog of projects.
With the nearly $500 billion transportation bill passed recently by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee folded into it, H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, is expected to see its first day of floor action June 30.
Democrats described the bill as a transformational measure that will create millions of jobs, take bold action on the climate crisis and address disparities in urban and rural communities.
In addition to transportation, the bill also covers areas such as schools, energy, broadband internet access, health care infrastructure and the U.S. Postal Service.
Republicans dismissed the measure as a partisan wish list put together by Democrats without any concern of its cost or bipartisanship. While such opposition may not be enough to derail the bill in the Democratic-controlled House, it does not bode well for its chances in the Republican-controlled Senate.
So far, even indications of a renewed interest in pushing a massive infrastructure package at the White House have not been enough to get past the concerns among Republicans in the Senate, where the focus remains on other priorities.
Language in the House legislation would provide $10 billion for the construction account of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out the backlog of authorized projects, with $3 billion of that amount directed to the inland waterways system. An additional $5 billion would address the backlog of operations and maintenance needs at existing Corps projects. Another $500 million would be for water-related environmental infrastructure projects, and additional funds would be authorized for harbor maintenance from the roughly $10 billion balance in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.
A section cited as the Climate Smart Ports Act would create a $500 million-per-year zero-emissions ports infrastructure program to assist ports and port users with replacing cargo handling equipment, port harbor craft and drayage trucks with zero-emissions equipment and technology.
An additional $50 million a year would be authorized for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act.
A fact sheet supplied by the House Democrats also stated “essential dredging and upkeep” of harbors, ports and channels would be funded to keep cargo moving.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) included several ports in its announcement the Trump administration intends to invest $906 million in 20 projects in 20 states through the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant program.
According to the announcement, Port Tampa Bay in Florida will be awarded more than $19.8 million to improve capacity at its Hooker’s Point container facility to accommodate an additional 150,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) annually.
The City of Tulsa-Rogers County Port Authority will be awarded more than $6.1 million to upgrade an industrial park in Inola, Okla., with new structures and rail and construct a three-mile rail spur connecting the park to the freight mainline.
The Port of Houston Authority in Texas will be awarded more than $79.4 million to restore and strengthen approximately 2,700 linear feet of wharf and upgrade approximately 84 acres of yard space at the Barbours Cut Container Terminal.
INFRA discretionary grants are used to create opportunities for all levels of government and the private sector to fund infrastructure, using innovative approaches to improve the processes for building significant projects and increasing accountability for the projects that are built, according to DOT.
Navigable Waters Rule
Despite multiple legal challenges, the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule took effect as scheduled June 22, except in the state of Colorado.
Just days earlier, a U.S. district judge agreed with Colorado’s request to block the rule from taking effect even while finding the state advanced “an unusual and partly self-contradictory theory of harm.” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser still marked the win with his office tweeting that the action will “protect our precious water resources and respect our state’s authority to administer water rights within our borders.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, led the years-long effort to kill and replace the Obama-era Waters of the United States rule.
EPA acknowledged the Colorado decision but also pointed out a district court in California on the same day denied a request by 17 states to prevent the new rule from taking effect on June 22.
A coalition of tribes from several states and environmental groups announced it had filed a legal challenge.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is soliciting applications to fill vacant stakeholder representative member positions on the Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee (MRRIC).
Applications must be received by July 24.
Created by a 2007 law, the MRRIC advises the Corps and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on recovery and mitigation activities underway.
For additional information, contact Lisa Rabbe at 816-389-3837.
Atlantic Coast Fairways
The Coast Guard is seeking comments on the possible establishment of shipping safety fairways along the U.S. Atlantic Coast to ensure navigation routes remain free from obstructions that could impact safety.
Comments must be received by August 18.
According to the Coast Guard, the proposed rulemaking will be based on navigation safety corridors identified in the Atlantic Coast Port Access Route Study.
For additional information, contact George Detweiler at 202-372-1566.
Boating Safety Committee To Meet
The National Boating Safety Advisory Council and its subcommittees will meet July 29 via teleconference. Open to the public, the meeting is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. EDT. A limited number of teleconference lines will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
In addition to oral comments during the teleconference, written comments for council members to review before the teleconference also can be submitted by July 15.
For additional information, contact Jeff Decker at 202-372-1507.
Fishing Committee Extension
The Coast Guard has extended the deadline for applications to serve on the National Commercial Fishing Safety Advisory Committee.
Applications now should be received by July 31.
For additional information, contact Jonathan Wendland at 202-372-1245.