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Garamendi Secures Major Wins for California and Supports the Environment in Infrastructure Bill

July 1, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) voted to pass a major infrastructure bill (H.R. 2) out of the House after he secured key provisions in the legislation to rebuild California’s transportation infrastructure, strengthen rural broadband, and support affordable housing. The House passed the “Moving Forward Act,” a $1.5 trillion investment in our nation’s infrastructure, workers, and communities across the country that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. The bill passed the House by a vote of 233-188 and now heads to the Senate.

“We must modernize California’s transportation network, communication systems, and address the climate crisis with infrastructure that is smarter, safer, made to last and reduces greenhouse gas emissions,” said Congressman Garamendi. “This legislation will make our roads, bridges, and public transit more resilient to climate change and better meet our state’s future transportation needs. California is the fifth largest economy in the world, and it’s time that our public infrastructure looked the part. Rebuilding our nation’s aging infrastructure with American workers and materials remains a top priority for me in Congress. I’m pleased this legislation has passed the House and I urge its swift adoption in the Senate,” Garamendi concluded.

The “Moving Forward Act” (H.R. 2) safeguards our environment and prepares our critical infrastructure to withstand the impacts of climate change by:

  • Measuring state-by-state greenhouse gas emissions and creating incentives for best performers in carbon pollution reduction. Creates a new program to fund resilient infrastructure that can withstand the impacts of climate change.
  • Increasing funding to develop charging stations and other alternative fueling options for electric and zero-emissions vehicles.
  • Doubling funding for technology deployment to increase innovation. Creates a new program to fund green materials research and to deploy green construction materials and practices to create smarter, more efficient transportation systems.
  • Increasing investment in zero-emission buses to reduce carbon pollution.
  • Tripling funding for Amtrak to $29 billion over five years, allowing for improvement and expansion of the nation’s passenger rail network. This gives travelers a reliable, low-carbon option to travel both short and long distances, including to regions that lack frequent or affordable airport service.

The “Moving Forward Act” (H.R. 2) also makes robust investments in rural communities by:

  • Delivering affordable high-speed broadband internet access to all parts of the country by investing $100 billion to promote competition for broadband internet infrastructure to unserved and underserved rural communities. The “Moving Forward Act” prioritizes communities in persistent poverty and ensures that broadband-related support is being administered in an efficient and financially sustainable manner.
  • Establishing a $250 million grant program to support infrastructure investments in rural communities. This includes consideration for projects that strengthen broadband infrastructure in rural communities.
  • Reserving a minimum of 25% of a $600 million community transportation investment grant program for rural communities to repair rural roads and bridges while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Connecting kids in rural areas to remote learning with digital equipment and affordable broadband options. The legislation connects school buses to Wi-Fi and helps schools and libraries close the “homework gap” outside school.

Congressman Garamendi, a senior member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, secured the following key provisions in this bill (H.R.2):

  • Federal Funding for Evacuating Routes: The legislation includes several provisions to provide federal highway funding for projects that improve routes for mass evacuations during natural disasters or emergencies. Congressman Garamendi’s related “ESCAPE Act” (H.R.2838) is included in the Senate’s bipartisan Highway Bill (S.2302). 
  • Safeguards Disaster-Recovery Funds for California: The bill includes Congressman Garamendi’s “Transportation Emergency Relief Funds Availability Act” (H.R.3193), which safeguards federal funding for disaster-recovery transportation projects statewide. In January 2019, the Trump Administration informed the California Department of Transportation’s (Caltrans) it was denying 1-year extensions for 66 out of 73 emergency-relief projects statewide and would proceed with clawing back federal funding. The bill repeals the current 2-year regulatory deadline and provides up to 6 years for transportation projects funded through an Emergency Relief Program to advance to construction.
  • Supports Bay Area Commuter Ferry Expansion: Increases annual funding for the Federal Highway Administration’s “Ferry Boats and Ferry Terminal Facilities Formula-Grant Program” to $120 million and the Federal Transit Administration’s “Passenger Ferry Competitive Grant Program” to $64 million, to support the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) and the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District (Golden Gate Commuter Ferry) proposed ferry service upgrades and terminal expansion.
  • Builds New Affordable Housing: The legislation increases funding for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME Investment Partnership Program (HOME) by $5 billion to build new affordable housing units throughout America. Rep. Garamendi introduced the “HOME Investment Partnership Reauthorization Act” earlier this month to reauthorize the HOME program for the first time since 1994 and increase annual funding under the “Moving Forward Act” passed by the House today.
  • Expands “Buy American” Requirements: Requires federally funded highway projects to use US-made and sourced building "construction materials,” such as including plastic and polymer-based products, concrete and other aggregates, glass (including fiber optic glass), lumber, drywall, etc. The normal exemptions to “Buy American” requirements would still apply, and just like “manufactured products” under current law, discretion would remain with the U.S. Department of Transportation to determine which construction materials are covered. This amendment is from Rep. Garamendi’s “Made in America Act” (H.R.3459), which is cosponsored by Reps. Rouda (D-CA), Sires (D-NJ), and Finkenauer (D-IA). It is supported by the Alliance for American Manufacturing, AFL-CIO, North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC), and nearly every other major labor union in the construction trades. Taxpayer money should be spent on American-made construction materials and American workers to rebuild and modernize our nation’s critical infrastructure.
  • Expedites CalTrans Permitting: Lengthens the agreement terms allowing states selected by the U.S. Department of Transportation to complete required National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) work including for “categorical exclusions” for any federally funded projects, on behalf of the Federal Highway Administration. This amendment does not make any changes, whatsoever, to environmental planning requirements under NEPA or federal permitting requirements. The agreement terms in this amendment, from 5 to 10 years, were specifically requested by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), which has a proven track record of completing this work.
    • “California has a long and successful track record performing federal responsibilities for environmental decisions and approvals under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  Through ‘NEPA Assignment,’ California has been able to cut the regulatory burden on thousands of transportation projects, saving months and even years in approving environmental documents.  Congressman Garamendi’s efforts will help us deliver transportation projects more efficiently, save the taxpayers money and speed our economic recovery from COVID-19,” said Secretary David S. Kim, California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA). 
  • Supports California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA): Directs the U.S. Department of Transportation to finally implement a pilot program eliminating duplicate state environmental reviews. For California, this would finally allow local transportation agencies to use completed documents under the California Environmental Quality Act to satisfy the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act: achieving so-called “CEQA-NEPA equivalency.” Given our robust state environmental reviews, California is one of the few states likely eligible for this new federal pilot program. Congress authorized this pilot program in 2015 under the FAST Act (2015 Highway Bill), but it has never been implemented because USDOT has simply not finished the needed regulations. This amendment is supported by the California State Association of Counties, Sacramento Area Council of Governments, and many local transportation agencies in our state.
  • Strengthens San Francisco Bay Restoration: Garamendi worked with his fellow northern California Democrats to increase the authorized amount of the San Francisco Bay Restoration grant program from $25 million to $50 million. Rep. Garamendi is an original cosponsor of the “San Francisco Bay Restoration Act” (H.R.1132), introduced by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA14).
  • Safeguards Funding for California’s Airports: Garamendi is an original cosponsor of Rep. Grace F. Napolitano’s (D-CA) legislation (H.R. 2939) included in the “Moving Forward Act” to protect California from FAA’s threat to withhold $250 million annually from California’s airports.