Cities Must Speak Up on Their Priorities for Transportation

May 25, 2021 - (4 min read)

Cities know that it’s time to fix the transportation problems in their communities, and Congress is picking up the pen this summer on a bill that could help us. 

This week, the Senate Environment and Public Work Committee (EPW) has kicked off the first transportation play of the new Congress with the introduction of the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021.They are moving very quickly and will mark up the $303.5B bill on Wednesday, 5/26, with reauthorization of many of the existing programs. This bill is coming in at 34% above the prior FAST Act legislation and may become the “foundation” for President Biden’s American Jobs Plan which is still being negotiated alongside this bipartisan effort.

NLC’s initial review of the bill shows some key gains for cities: 

  • Overall allocations to local governments of core programs is up
  • A new carbon reduction program has 65% suballocation to urban areas
  • Substantial increases, certainty, and obligation authority on the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) for biking and pedestrian projects included 
  • Changes to city categories by population in the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBG) will add greater accountability on how the funding is spent by states on smaller cities and gives communities of 50,000 to 200,000 more leverage in consulting with their states
  • Off-system local bridge programs increase and creates a new set-aside for projects in rural areas
  • Rail grade crossing “Section 130” grants went up to 100 percent federal share and confirmed that replacing functionally obsolete warning devices is an eligible expense
  • Establishes a community planning and construction connectivity pilot program to adapt existing transportation facilities that create barriers to mobility, access, or economic development
  • Cybersecurity becomes an eligible expense in several programs including STBG 
  • Safety program funding increases with a highlight on the pedestrian issues and reducing deaths on roads
  • Cities ability to use the design guidelines of their choice was reiterated 

However, this Senate bill does not include some of the key priorities of NLC and local stakeholders such as increasing the local funding of the Surface Transportation Block Grant and including cities more substantially in the safety and technology programs. This bill could continue to improve in the EPW markup and also as other Senate Committees add their pieces onto the bill, but it just underscores the need for more city leaders to pick up the phone and set up meetings to talk with your Member of Congress and Senators directly about what you need.

Speak Up

Share NLC’s Statement on the EPW Bill

Cities Leader Must Speak Up 

This is just the beginning – the federal transportation marathon requires six different Congressional Committees in the House and Senate to take action on the issues under their jurisdiction in order to move a bill forward so now is the time to jump in and join NLC in advocating for the partnership that moves us forward. 

NLC CEO and Executive Director, Clarence Anthony has urged communities to step up and reminded Congress and city leaders, “We cannot be shy as a country about investing in our people and in our communities to build a better quality of life in every place we call ‘home.’” Congress needs to hear directly from city leaders about what your communities need on infrastructure and workforce training. 

NLC has been asking Congress to:

  • Partner with local governments like they did with the American Recovery Plan Act on the infrastructure rebuilding we need to do!
  • Deliver far more than the bare minimum on infrastructure and skills training!
  • Build connectivity through transportation, water and broadband and train up the local workforce for the jobs to rebuild our infrastructure 

Communities across the country are ready to partner with Congress and the Administration to rebuild our critical connections. 

Take Action

Join city leaders across the country and tell Congress that it’s time to rebuild with us! 

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