WASHINGTON, D.C. – Several provisions authored by U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), passed out of the EPW Committee and were included in a broader highway bill. America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019 (ATIA) authorizes $287 billion in highway spending—a 27 percent increase above the spending levels included in the last 5-year transportation reauthorization bill, the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, passed by Congress in December 2015. The legislation includes an increase in overall spending, a climate change title that includes robust investments to reduce emissions and make our infrastructure more resilient, important labor protections, and much-needed safety improvements.
“It’s important that we are increasing the federal investment needed to modernize our infrastructure, which will strengthen the economy, create jobs, and improve America’s roadways,” Senator Booker said. “These provisions will bring more resources and creative tools to New Jersey to reduce emissions, protect the environment, and rebuild our aging roads and bridges. Investing in smart strategies on resiliency and climate change protects our communities, but also ensures the regional economy keeps moving.”
Booker authored the following provisions in the Senate bill:
- Reducing Emissions from Ports: Establishes a new $370 million program to reduce emissions from seaports, including measures to reduce truck idling and electrify port operations. ATIA also includes a Booker request to increase the cap on multimodal projects under the existing freight grant program that will allow for more investments to ports and freight rail infrastructure. Low-income families near the Port of New York and New Jersey are disproportionately impacted by large volumes of air pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides (NOX) and particulate matter (PM) emitted by heavy -duty diesel trucks, ocean-going vessels, cargo handling equipment, railroad locomotives, and harbor craft. The concentration of pollutants is linked to higher rates of serious health problems including asthma, lung and heart disease, and other respiratory ailments. The impacts, especially on children, result in higher asthma rates, increased risk for cancer, missed school days, and increased hospital visits.
- Resiliency: ATIA incorporates Booker’s request for a definition of natural infrastructure and resilience in the federal highway program, including the new resilience grant program in the bill’s climate change title, which will allow states to make investments in green infrastructure solutions, such as the use of permeable materials and non–structural solutions, that can protect transportation systems from flooding and extreme weather and provide a greater return on investment.
- Wildlife Collision Program: Establishes a new $250 million wildlife crossing pilot program to provide grants for projects designed to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and improve habitat connectivity. Reported collisions between motorists and wildlife cause more than 200 human fatalities and over 26,000 injuries each year, at an annual cost of more than $8 billion.
- Toll Credit Transfer Program: Establishes a toll credit exchange to allow states to sell, transfer, or purchase toll credits to increase resources for local transportation projects. Under existing law, states that have certain toll roads receive “credit” for investing toll revenue in their state’s transportation projects. States can apply these credits toward local match requirements on federally funded transportation projects. Given the substantial revenue New Jersey generates from tolls, the states has billions of excess toll credits that it could sell in this marketplace in order to boost investment in New Jersey’s roads and bridges.
- Innovative Mobility: ATIA amends the existing Department of Transportation research and technology program to ensure funding the use of cutting-edge technology to increase mobility and reduce emissions.
- Ferry Boat Improvement: ATIA expands eligibility for certain ferry boat operators that serve a critical function in their region’s transportation system. Ferry boat operations are critical to New Jersey and New York’s transportation systems, especially during rail service disruptions, when ferry boats provide much-needed assistance to otherwise stranded commuters.
- University Transportation Centers Funding: ATIA increases funding for University Transportation Centers, an important program for research at Rutgers University.