Congressman García’s Amendments Strengthen INVEST in America Act which Passed the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee

June 18, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. - Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, praised today’s passage of the surface transportation bill, the INVEST In America Act, which recognizes that transportation has a profound impact on equity and social justice. The bill is a 5-year, $494 billion investment to restore the nation’s crumbling infrastructure that takes unprecedented steps to address the climate crisis.

“While there is still more work to do, the INVEST in America Act is an important step toward the transportation system we need to meet the demands of the future. We know the transportation sector is the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and the INVEST Act takes strides to reduce our national carbon footprint,” said Rep. García. “The bill demonstrates a willingness to adopt evidence-based innovations, sustainable technologies, and departs from the status quo by promoting maintenance, repair, and modernization of our existing infrastructure. Transit, pedestrian, and bike access are significantly enhanced by the INVEST Act to promote equity, and sustainability.”

“Transportation policy is unequivocally a matter of social justice and equity. Across the country, our built environment has been used to segregate Black & Brown communities and deprive working people from opportunities and jobs. I offered an amendment to promote equity by quadrupling transit funding without cutting highways to highlight that we do not have to operate in a zero-sum game. This historically unequal split has starved our cities and towns from needed transit investments and must be fundamentally reconsidered,” said Rep. García. “Our current policies and formulas are broken. We need to reframe our work and treat transportation policy as an integral component of the fight for social justice and equity for everyone--Black, Brown, rural, or urban.”

Building on important provisions already in the bill, two of Rep. Garcia’s amendments were accepted early in the bill’s revision process. First, flexibility was added to improve interoperability of different technologies at electric vehicle charging stations. His next amendment doubled the required number of affordable housing units in transit-oriented development projects, with support of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. 

During the committee’s mark-up, Rep. García built support and coalitions to pass two important amendments that had endorsements from many outside organizations:

  • Cosponsored by Rep. Mike Gallagher (WI-08), a bipartisan amendment was accepted to prioritize maintenance over the construction of new capacity projects. The amendment was endorsed by organizations across the political spectrum, including the Bipartisan Policy Center - Action, Taxpayers for Common Sense, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, and League of Conservation Voters. It also has the support of  Transportation for America, National League of Cities, National Association of City Transportation Officials, the Shared Use Mobility Center, and the League of American Bicyclists.
  • Cosponsored by Reps. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Steve Cohen (TN-09), and Hank Johnson (GA-04), an amendment was accepted (37-27) to increase the minimum insurance required for commercial motor vehicles which has not been updated since the 1980s and ties the value to inflation. The amendment is supported by the American Association for Justice, Institute for Safer Trucking, Truck Safety Coalition, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, and Parents Against Tired Truckers.

While not accepted, Rep. García also offered two bold amendments that directly challenge outdated federal transportation policies. Reforms of this scale are necessary to create a truly equitable transportation system for the future, and both amendments are supported by the Environmental Law and Policy Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, League of Conservation Voters, Shared Use Mobility Center, and Transportation for America.

  • The first amendment sought parity between highways and transit funding, replacing the long-standing 80-20 ratio that perpetually favors highways. More seriously investing in transit would provide more access to jobs; better connect the cities, suburbs and exurbs; and remove the heavy cost burden of owning a car. 
  • The second amendment changes how we design our roadways. Standard practice puts too much value on "level of service" which prioritizes faster, wider highways and roads instead of updating existing streets with better bike, pedestrian, or transit access. The amendment mitigates a phenomenon called induced demand where more roadway causes more traffic.

Even with the opportunity for bolder reform, the bill includes many of Congressman García’s priorities in equity, access and sustainability -- core values of the Future of Transportation Caucus, of which García is a co-founding member. For example, the bill:

  • Creates a new Office of Transit-Supportive Communities to promote affordable housing near transit, and includes principles from his bill the “Promoting Equitable Transit Oriented Development and Mobility Corridors Act.”
  • Establishes a new access to jobs and services performance measure to prioritize shorter, safer, and more efficient transportation to employment options and services -- measures adopted from the bills he introduced this year (HR 6463 and HR 6464).
  • Requires automatic emergency braking (AEB) technology become standard features on motor carriers including large trucks, based on provisions from the Safe Roads Act, which he cosponsored with Rep. Hank Johnson.
  • Establishes a National Transit Frontline Workforce Training Center with a focus on frontline bus and transit workers’ professional development, an effort he championed with Reps. Anthony Brown and Jamie Raskin to help Chicago frontline transit workers like those at Pace Bus, CTA, and Metra.
  • Implements a new greenhouse gas emission performance metric to require all new projects take account for the additional pollution the project will produce.

The five-year reauthorization is expected to go to the floor of the House by early July as part of H.R. 2 and will likely include important infrastructure proposals like improving broadband availability. It is expected to then enter conference with the Senate for bicameral negotiations. The Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee passed their companion surface transportation bill (S. 2302, America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019) last summer.