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House Democrats roll out $500B green transportation infrastructure bill

House Democrats roll out $500B green transportation infrastructure bill
© Greg Nash

House Democrats rolled out a nearly $500 billion infrastructure bill Wednesday aimed at updating America’s aging transportation system.

The bill would offer significant sums of money for repairing roads and bridges — a consistent theme in several previous infrastructure bills that have failed to get much traction.

But the bill from the House Transportation Committee focuses greater funding toward public transportation and rail travel, along with investments in electric vehicle charging stations.

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The legislation would also establish new greenhouse gas standards that states must meet, with increased funding flowing to states that make the most progress. States would also be required to make sure any new transportation projects will have a positive effect on climate change.

Committee Chairman Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioHillicon Valley: Global cybersecurity leaders say they feel unprepared for attack | Senate Commerce Committee advances Biden's FTC nominee Lina Khan | Senate panel approves bill that would invest billions in tech Top Democrat: FCC actions are a 'potential setback' to autonomous vehicles Biden's infrastructure plan builds a stronger foundation for seniors MORE (D-Ore.) said the legislation, dubbed the INVEST in America Act, “will catapult our country into a new era of how we plan, build, and improve U.S. infrastructure.”

Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), supplying nearly a third of emissions.

Nearly 60 percent of that comes from cars and light duty trucks.

The bill would not only boost funding for public transit but change how it is doled out, incentivizing more frequent service — a key feature for recruiting riders — rather than low operating costs.

Cities would receive greater funding for offering public transit in low-income neighborhoods and for setting aside bus lanes that allow for expedited service on otherwise congested thoroughfares.

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Amtrak funding would be tripled under the legislation, while spending on rail projects in general would hit $60 billion.

Republicans on the committee complained they were not involved in crafting the bill and criticized the environmental measures included. 

“We were not given the opportunity to address any of our priorities in this legislation.  For example, today’s partisan bill lacks critical flexibility for the states, its outsized funding increases for urban areas will leave rural America even further behind, and numerous new green mandates and extreme progressive goals are woven throughout the fabric of new and existing core programs,” ranking member Rep. Sam GravesSamuel (Sam) Bruce GravesGOP lawmaker points to Colonial Pipeline as infrastructure vulnerability Gas shortages spread to more states Republicans welcome the chance to work with Democrats on a bipartisan infrastructure bill MORE (R-Mo.) said in a release.

The bill is part of a framework floated by House Democrats in January that would spend upwards of $760 billion on infrastructure.

Despite interest from both parties in passing a major infrastructure bill since the beginning of the Trump administration, the idea has repeatedly failed to advance in Congress.

The plan would likely face resistance in the Republican-led Senate.

"The House Democrats’ bill limits the flexibility states have to get priority projects done – while creating new paperwork burdens. It also radically increases funding for transit, at a time when fewer Americans will use these systems because of COVID," Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoBiden says he and GOP both 'sincere about' seeking infrastructure compromise Senate panel advances Biden's deputy Interior pick The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden expresses optimism on bipartisanship; Cheney ousted MORE (R-Wyo.) said in a statement.

"Infrastructure legislation is critical to our economic recovery and it must help the entire country, not just select urban centers."