NLC Analysis of the DRIVE Act

Overview

On July 30th the Senate passed HR 22, the DRIVE Act, by a vote of 65-34. The DRIVE Act would authorize funding levels for programs supported by the Highway Trust Fund over six years. For cities, the bill represents an improvement over the status quo but leaves room for improvement.

NLC Goals for Transportation Reauthorization

Under the current authorization, MAP-21, needs and interests of States were given a higher priority over local governments when compared to the bill that came before, SAFETEA-LU. As a result, local governments lost funding between SAFETEA-LU and MAP -21.

One of NLC's goals for the next authorization is to return funding to reasonable levels for cities, or as Mayor Becker said in his Congressional testimony:

"We are seeking a course correction, not radical departure from the current authorization. But with four substantive changes, [NLC's recommendations would] provide for a useful and needed reorientation of federal surface transportation policy toward cities and metropolitan areas where the changes in the transportation market are happening."

To inform our legislative strategy, NLC has four "advocacy goals" and four "policy goals." Our advocacy goals appear in our Transportation Advocacy Issue Brief:

NLC calls on Congress to authorize a new, long-term federal surface transportation bill that:

  • Authorizes at least six years of transportation programs and funding,
  • Enables more local control, 
  • Supports innovative programs and finance and
  • Helps fix the Highway Trust Fund.

Our four policy goals were developed in cooperation with other local stakeholders including USCM and NACo, and appear in our letters to Congress and at the conclusion of Mayor Becker's testimony before Congress:

  • Increase the allocation of Surface Transportation Program funding available for local governments from 50 percent to 75 percent.
  • Improve the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) by increasing to 100 percent the share of TAP funds allocated by population to local areas.
  • Clarify that local Metropolitan Planning Organizations have the authority to select projects for funding under the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program.
  • Restoration funding for on-system, Non-National Highway System Bridges that was lost under consolidation in the previous authorization.

Comparison of NLC's Transportation Advocacy Goals to the DRIVE Act

Authorizes at least six years of transportation programs and funding.

  • The DRIVE Act authorizes six years of increased funding overall to provide certainty of support for multi-year transportation projects. Despite the higher share, overall funding for the Surface Transportation Program would be lower than current levels, and so total dollar amounts directed to local governments would fall.

Enables more local control

  • The DRIVE Act increases the share of funding directly provided to local communities through the Surface Transportation Program from 50 percent to 55 percent.
  • The DRIVE Act take would redirect the state share of funding under the Transportation Alternatives Program to local governments so that 100 percent of TAP funding would be directed by localities. Localities currently control 50 percent of TAP funds. The bill authorizes $850 million for TAP annually.
  • The DRIVE Act makes local governments eligible, along with States and MPO's, for grants to "accelerate the deployment and adoption of transportation research".
  • The DRIVE Act enables local jurisdictions to use different roadway design guides than its state DOT uses, if the locals are the project sponsor. The DRIVE Act removes existing prohibitions on using tax-exempt municipal bonds in conjunction with projects funded by WIFIA.
  • The DRIVE Act increase the authorizations and annual growth of Federal Transit Programs.

Supports innovative programs and finance

  • The DRIVE Act makes transit-oriented-development eligible for the TIFIA program and lowers project cost thresholds from $50 million to $10 million to assist smaller communities. However, TIFIA would fall from $1 billion to $650 million.
  • The DRIVE Act improves consideration of multi-modal projects by requiring that all modes of transportation be considered when designing National Highway System projects and integrates updated urban design guides into federal design standards.
  • The DRIVE Act directs states and MPO's to use "complete streets" in street design.
  • The DRIVE Act encourages Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to consider intermodal facilities that support intercity buses and bus facilities.
  • The DRIVE Act does not authorize, eliminate, or tamper with the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program. TIGER remains subject to the annual appropriations process.

Helps fix the Highway Trust Fund Deficit

  • The DRIVE Act provides three years of dedicated funding for the six-year authorization. Congress would need to identify funding for the final three years of the bill.

Comparison of NLC's Transportation Policy Goals to the DRIVE Act

Increase the allocation of Surface Transportation Program funding available for local governments from 50 percent to 75 percent.

  • The DRIVE Act increases the share of funding directly provided to local communities through the Surface Transportation Program from 50 percent to 55 percent. Despite the higher share, overall funding for the Surface Transportation Program would be lower than current levels, and so total dollar amounts directed to local governments would fall. 

Improve the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) by increasing to 100 percent the share of TAP funds allocated by population to local areas.

  • The DRIVE act enacts this change.

Clarify that local Metropolitan Planning Organizations have the authority to select projects for funding under the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program.

  • The DRIVE Act would maintain the status quo.

Restoration of funding for on-system, Non-National Highway System Bridges

  • The DRIVE Act would increase funding that must be spent on off-system bridges and create a new option for rural areas to bundle small projects such as bridges to increase efficiency.