House approves surface transportation and infrastructure bill  

The House on July 1 approved a $715 billion surface transportation and water infrastructure bill that authorizes additional spending for roads, bridges, highway safety, electric vehicle charging stations, rail, transit, drinking and wastewater infrastructure.

The INVEST in America Act passed with a mostly partisan 221-201 vote with two Republicans supporting the bill. It extends expiring surface transportation programs for five years and authorizes $343 billion for roads, bridges and safety, $109 billion for transit, $95 billion for rail, $117 billion for drinking water infrastructure and more than $51 billion for wastewater infrastructure.

This is the first time the House has passed legislation containing earmarks, which allow lawmakers to direct funds toward specific projects, since the practice was reinstated earlier this year. According to a Reuters report, the bill designates more than 1,470 projects amounting to nearly $5.7 billion in spending.

While the INVEST in America Act includes some regulatory flexibility by allowing for a 10 percent axle weight tolerance for commercial vehicles transporting dry bulk goods, it does not include the majority of the policy priorities sought by the NGFA and the larger agricultural stakeholder community. However, a surface transportation bill passed by the Senate Commerce Committee in June did include significant portions of the DRIVE Safe Act to alleviate a nationwide shortage of commercial drivers as well as a 150 air-mile exemption for livestock from the hours-of-service rules on the backend of a trip. 

Separately, President Biden and a group of 10 bipartisan senators emerged from a meeting at the White House on June 24 to announce they had reached an infrastructure agreement totaling $1.2 trillion over eight years, including $579 billion in new spending. But the details of the framework need to be converted into written legislation.