Both the Texas Legislature and the United States Congress address many important transportation issues that affect the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Transportation and air quality in the North Central Texas region are impacted by legislative decisions at the State and federal levels.
NCTCOG staff regularly update policy and technical committee members, transportation partners and others interested in monitoring legislative initiatives related to the Regional Transportation Council (RTC) legislative priorities.
In order to understand current legislative initiatives, the RTC directed the development of a Transportation Funding 101 primer so legislators and the general public can better understand funding sources for transportation as well as trends that impact the amount of funding available. A shortfall of funding has been identified and the primer also addresses potential solutions to increase funding options.
Legislative Update: January 22, 2024
FROM WASHINGTON, D.C.
The House and Senate have passed a continuing resolution with bipartisan votes, and the President signed the measure, to avoid a partial government shutdown that would have started on Saturday morning. The legislation extends current-level funding for some federal agencies until March 1, including the Department of Transportation, and others until March 8. This resolution is the third stopgap measure passed by Congress since September, as the government has been operating under short-term funding extensions since November.
Aside from the approved Continuing Resolution, House and Senate negotiators have agreed on fiscal 2024 appropriations spending limits. The tentative agreement adheres to last year's debt limit consensus, allocating $886.3 billion for defense and $772.7 billion for nondefense programs, including agreed-upon spending yet to be written into the legislative text.
On December 19, the Senate approved an extension of the FAA funding authority until March to avoid a lapse before the holidays. The extension, passed by unanimous consent, serves as the second extension in three months while negotiations for a long-term FAA reauthorization bill continue.
The FAA's current funding authority would expire on March 8, risking a loss of revenue collection from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, which funds airport projects and aviation programs. The extension allows lawmakers additional time to negotiate and pass a comprehensive FAA reauthorization bill. Safety concerns in the air traffic control system add urgency to passing key aviation policies.
The Senate's five-year FAA reauthorization bill has faced delays since June, primarily due to disputes over language on pilot training requirements.
IIJA’s Two-Year Anniversary
The Biden-Harris Administration is actively implementing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, directing $27.9 billion to Texas for over 764 projects. Approximately $19.2 billion has been allocated for transportation, benefiting roads, bridges, public transit, ports, and airports. Texas received $4.3 billion to expand high-speed internet access, leading to over 1,713,000 households benefiting from reduced monthly internet bills.
The BIL continues to reach new communities, including rural areas and historically underserved populations, making crucial investments to enhance lives across Texas. More projects are anticipated in the coming months as funding opportunities evolve into grant awards and formula funds transform into specific projects.
Federal Rulemaking Calendar
- National Performance Management Measures; Assessing Performance of the National Highway System, Greenhouse Gas Emissions Measure: Federal Highway Administration and U.S. Department of Transportation published a final rule amending FHWA’s regulations governing national performance management measures and establishing a method for the measurement and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions associated with transportation (GHG measure).
- National Standards for Traffic Control Devices; the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways; Revision: Federal Highway Administration and U.S. Department of Transportation released The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD) as the national standard for traffic control devices used on all public roads, bikeways, or private roads open to public travel.
December 2023 TTC Meeting
On December 12, the TTC discussed the challenges facing Texas’s Energy sector. Challenges remain with safety, congestion, and roadway preservation. TxDOT will continue to respond to the needs of the energy sector and the citizens of Texas.
January 2024 TTC Meeting
On January 17, the TTC discussed the 2025 Draft UTP Distribution figures. The 2025 UTP Planning Forecast includes funding related to the Infrastructure Investment and Job Act (IIJA), State Highway Funds, the State’s Proposition 1 & 7, as well as Texas Mobility Bond Funds. The draft preserves UTP funding for preservation, bridge & safety at 2024 UTP levels. Additional funding has been approved to advance strategic statewide initiatives and projects. The TTC also approved formula funding rules that alter the funding timeline for projects administered by MPOs. This includes the proposed rules related to Category 5 and 7 carryover funds.
Texas Rulemaking Calendar
- Texas Department of Motor Vehicles proposes amendments to the Texas Administrative Code. New sections are proposed to document and clarify current licensing application requirements, procedures for issuing industry license plates, and sanctions relating to manufacturers, distributors, converters, franchised dealers, and to document and clarify application requirements and procedures for issuing industry license plates to drive-away operators. Proposed rules are due January 28.
MONITORED BILLS LIST
The Texas Legislature is not in session. If you need information on the federal bills being tracked, please contact Nick Allen.
RECENT COMMITTEE HEARINGS
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee: November 29
During a November 29 House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee subcommittee meeting, members discussed intercity passenger and high-speed rail, expressing bipartisan support for high-speed rail. However, some Republicans raised concerns about the over-budget and delayed Los Angeles-to-San Francisco project. Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas, voiced support for high-speed rail but criticized the California project for poor planning, government incompetence, and failure to account for actual costs.
Testifying at the hearing, Lee Ohanian, an economics professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, acknowledged the challenges faced by California's high-speed rail project, emphasizing the importance of a legitimate business plan and the need to identify and mitigate risks. Despite criticisms of the California project, there is bipartisan approval for the Brightline West plan, a private-sector high-speed rail project connecting Las Vegas and Southern California, led by a company with a successful 125-mph train service in Florida.
The discussion also touched on the proposed Texas Central HSR project to link Dallas and Houston. Austin, Texas, Mayor Kirk Watson suggested that the Texas Triangle presents a significant opportunity for improving intercity passenger rail service and could be the "lowest-hanging fruit" in the nation for such improvements. The hearing highlighted challenges and potential for high-speed rail development, emphasizing private-public partnerships and efficient planning.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee: December 13
Transportation Department officials, including Undersecretary for Policy Carlos Monje and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Administrator Robin Hutcheson, testified before a House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on infrastructure investment oversight. The hearing covered various topics such as electric vehicle charging station infrastructure, the impact of speed limiters on large commercial trucks, investments in high-speed and light rail, safety standards for vehicles, and crash mitigation.
One notable point of discussion was the recent recall of over 2 million Tesla vehicles due to safety concerns with the autopilot system. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Acting Administrator Ann Carlson stated that Tesla agreed to the recall because its software might not adequately prevent driver misuse. Tesla committed to working on remedies to address the identified problem. The hearing addressed critical aspects of transportation infrastructure, safety standards, and emerging technologies, reflecting a comprehensive approach to overseeing and enhancing the nation's transportation systems.
House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure: January 17
The Committee held a hearing titled, “The State of Infrastructure.” The hearing focused on the state of our transportation network and our nation’s ability to effectively and efficiently move goods through our supply chain. Witnesses included representatives from the Virginia Port Authority, the Washington State Department of Transportation, Transportation Intermediaries Association, and the Associated General Contractors of America.
House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure: January 18
The Committee held a hearing titled, “Oversight and Examination of Railroad Grade Crossing Elimination and Safety.” The Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials examined highway-railroad grade crossing eliminations and safety improvements. Witnesses included representatives from the Federal Railroad Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Association of American Railroads, and the Indiana Department of Transportation.
Congressional Updates important to our region
In 2005 Congress passed the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) . This legislation guided surface transportation policy and funding through 2009. Nine short-term extensions passed since SAFETEA-LU expired in 2009. The final short-term extension of SAFETEA-LU extended surface transportation authorization through June 30, 2012.
On July 6, 2012, President Obama signed into law a two-year $105 billion surface transportation authorization, titled Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21). MAP-21 reauthorized the federal-aid highway, highway safety and transit programs that were last authorized by SAFETEA-LU. New programs and funding levels began on October 1, 2012, and continued through September 30, 2014. The final short-term extension of MAP-21 expired on December 4, 2015.
On December 4, 2015, President Obama signed the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act into law, which authorizes Federal highway, transit, safety and rail programs for five years at $305 billion. The FAST Act is effective October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2020.
2019 RTC Principles for Federal Surface Transportation Authorization