April Newsletter
Biden Introduces Infrastructure Plan
President Joe Biden announced his proposed $2 trillion-plus infrastructure plan at the end of last month, and this week, he urged Congress to act on it in his first speech before a joint session of Congress. The American Jobs Plan (AJP) is put forward as a way to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure systems while generating jobs and economic growth. The plan proposes investments over up to eight years. It goes well beyond transportation, including support for broadband, school construction, electric vehicles, power grid improvements, clean drinking water, and much more.

The portion of the administration’s plan that is more traditional transportation infrastructure is about $450 billion. More details
The administration proposes to pay for the plan over 15 years by increasing the corporate rate from 21 percent to 28 percent and with other corporate tax changes such as eliminating loopholes, increased enforcement, and modifying deductions. Note: The corporate tax rate was 35 percent before the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).

Also during his remarks on Wednesday, President Biden said, "And I applaud a group of Republican senators who just put forward their own proposal. So let’s get to work."
Senate Republican Counteroffer
Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and other Republican leaders recently introduced a five-year, $568 billion framework for traditional public infrastructure spending, including transportation infrastructure plus drinking water and wastewater, water storage, and broadband internet. The Senate Republican plan calls for a five-year $360 billion surface transportation reauthorization and other transportation funding. It appears the reauthorization proposal would increase highway funding on average $13 billion a year while slightly reducing public transit spending.

Breakdown of the Senate Republican plan:
  • Highways, roads & bridges: $299 billion
  • Public transit: $61 billion
  • Airports: $44 billion
  • Rail: $20 billion
  • Ports & inland waterways: $17 billion
  • Safety: $13 billion
  • Broadband infrastructure: $65 billion
  • Drinking water & wastewater: $35 billion
  • Water storage: $14 billion

The two-page framework document lays out the following payfor principles: Congress should pay for the cost of the infrastructure bills, shore up any trust fund that is facing a revenue shortfall, ensure all users (ex: electric vehicles) are helping to pay for the infrastructure they use, and repurpose unused federal funding. However, the plan does not make any specific revenue recommendations.

The Republican plan also states that dollars should flow through “existing formula programs and proven discretionary programs,” regulatory burdens should be reduced, and environmental review and the permitting processes expedited.

The Senate EPW Committee is expected to move the highway policy portion of surface transportation legislation in May.
TDA Fly-in Top Five Takeaways
My Perspective by TDA Executive Director Debby Jackson

On Friday, April 16, TDA held its first virtual Fly-in. Approximately 70 people logged on to hear from a panel of DC infrastructure experts about the Biden infrastructure plan and the likely path forward this year. Secretary Thompson also joined the event for a discussion of Wisconsin priorities.

Here are the top five things you need to know:

The emphasis on infrastructure is an opportunity. After years of talking about transportation, there appears to be bipartisan acknowledgment of the need to increase investment and momentum. As Ed Mortimer, vice president of transportation and infrastructure for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said during the event, “We have a once in a generational opportunity…We have an opportunity to lay the groundwork for not just fixing our old system but modernizing…Inaction is not an option.”

We are in the early days. We have seen a couple of proposals but no legislative language. Like the strategy TDA has espoused for state funding, our DC experts recommend a wait-and-see approach, taking nothing off the table.

It is about both. While the news focuses on the daily politics surrounding an infrastructure package, we need to keep our eye on two main paths for increased transportation investment this year – a one-time infrastructure plan and an adequate, long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill. The Democrats may pass an infrastructure bill by reconciliation – a process that allows Congress to enact legislation on fiscal items with only a majority in the Senate, avoiding the 60-vote threshold to end debate. But the surface reauthorization, which expires September 30, cannot be accomplished by reconciliation and will need bipartisan support.

Advocacy matters. Make it specific. Now is the time for us to prepare to engage our representatives in Congress fully. To do so, Mortimer recommends that we determine our priorities and make a plan. Echoing comments from the earlier panel, Secretary Thompson advised advocates to speak to the delegation about specific projects and less about budgets and dollars. According to Thompson, focusing on the district benefits is a way to keep delegation members more engaged in the process.

Wisconsin transportation can deliver. Ending the Fly-in with optimism and speaking of Wisconsin’s transportation community, Thompson said, “We've demonstrated that if we get the money, we can deliver it. Our consulting engineers, our contractors, our union operators, our folks in Wisconsin have done a tremendous job. When we get the dollars, they demonstrate how we improve people's lives.”

The panelists were excellent, and the discussions interesting and informative. If you missed the event or you want to refresh your memory, a recording of the Fly-in is available here. In addition, consider joining the TCC Virtual Fly-in, May 18-20.

Stay tuned. Things are heating up. And thanks to our sponsors and attendees.
Senate Hearing on Highway Trust Fund Solvency
In preparation for a long-term surface transportation reauthorization, the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee held a hearing on April 14 to discuss ways to pay for Highway Trust fund programs. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that baseline spending levels will require an additional $75 billion in tax receipts or transfers over the next five years and close to $200 billion over the next decade.

Much of the discussion focused on vehicle mile traveled or VMT user-fee funding. On April 13, 31 transportation organizations sent a letter to House and Senate transportation committee leaders asking them to create a comprehensive national vehicle miles traveled (VMT) implementation program.

Beyond specific ideas to stabilize the Highway Trust Fund both short and long-term, other speakers stressed the importance of the user fee concept and the traditional formula distribution method.

“Congress must not drive away from a user-fee [and] formula-based national transportation funding stream,” wrote Douglas Shinkle, transportation program director for the National Conference of State Legislatures, in his testimony. According to Shinkle, this predictable and stable revenue allows states to plan for efficient project and multi-year program delivery.
Wisconsin News
Local Voters Overwhelming Support Modernizing, Adding Capacity to I-94 East-West
According to a poll released this week by the I-94 East-West Econ Connect coalition, more than 70 percent of Milwaukee and Waukesha County voters support the modernization of the 60-year-old I-94 East-West Corridor with an added lane.

Roughly three-quarters of those surveyed drive this vital stretch of Interstate between the Marquette and Zoo interchanges at least once a month, with 28 percent using it weekly. People who live along the 3.5-mile proposed project work area are most likely to use the corridor daily.
The results show 71 percent of whites and 76 percent of African Americans support the reconstruction of the corridor with an additional lane in each direction. Overall, 73 percent of those surveyed in Milwaukee County and 67 percent in Waukesha County support this option.

While 71 percent support modernizing the corridor with four lanes in each direction, only 42 percent support a less expensive plan that does not include an additional lane and all the traffic flow and safety benefits related to the increased capacity and reduced congestion. A 56-percent majority opposes the lower cost option.

Public Opinion Strategies conducted the poll of 500 voters in Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties from April 6-8. The survey was weighted to reflect the area's demographic, geographic, and political makeup and has a margin of error of +/- 4.38 percent.

Read the entire release here and download the poll deck here.
Other I-94 East-West News
Earlier this month, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation announced a decision to move directly to a supplemental environmental impact statement (EIS). This next step will allow WisDOT to assess the changes in traffic patterns brought on by the pandemic and to receive more public input.

According to WisDOT Secretary Thompson, the expanded public review process should let WisDOT obtain final approval (a Record of Decision, ROD) of the project as early as late 2022. This approval, along with enumeration, will permit the department to begin final design work and real estate acquisition in the 2021-23 biennium.
For more news around the state, take a look at TDA's About TIME publication.

Theatre Road, a once quiet farm road, has become a busy local collector with the addition of several large subdivisions and the consolidation of the Village’s schools. The school board identifies the road as “unusually hazardous.” The way forward for the construction of an off-street, shared-use path is uncertain.
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2021 Annual Meeting - Tuesday, November 16