House INVEST Act Includes Congestion Pricing Provisions

The House’s surface transportation reauthorization bill, titled the INVEST in America Act, was introduced last week by the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and amended after 24 hours of markup spread over two days. The bill included new language on congestion pricing, a topic Eno is closely tracking.

Section 1110(e) of H.R. 2 as introduced states, “The Secretary may authorize conversion of a non-tolled lane on the National Highway System to a toll facility to utilize pricing to manage the demand to use the facility by varying the toll amount that is charged.”

The language introduced in the congestion pricing subparagraph and the broader section on tolling in the bill removes limits on the number and type of facilities that can be tolled, but incurs additional requirements of the public authorities looking to toll.

Among the new requirements in order to receive approval from the Secretary are that tolling projects will be considered a major Federal action under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), thus requiring public authorities to prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement; tolling facilities shall provide toll-free access at no cost to public transportation vehicles; facilities shall allow for regional electronic tolling interoperability; and the Secretary will ensure adequate consideration by the public authority on public comment regarding congestion impacts, air quality, planned public transportation investments, environmental justice and equity, freight movement impacts, and business economic impacts.

The bill also states that congestion pricing facilities “are reasonably expected to improve the operation of the cordon or corridor” through performance monitoring. This provision requires annual reports that assess the effects of the pricing structure on the toll facility’s operations, and of the impacts of congestion pricing on the operation of the corridor or cordon.

If, per these annual assessments, the facility or the corridor or cordon becomes “degraded”, the public authority must submit a plan to bring it into compliance. Degradation of the toll facility’s operation is defined as vehicles failing to maintain a minimum average operating speed (here, 45 miles per hour on facilities with a speed limit of at least 50 miles per hour or not more than 10 miles per hour below the speed limit on facilities with a speed limit of less than 50 miles per hour) 90 percent of the time over 180 consecutive days during peak hour periods, and degradation of the corridor or cordon is defined as a failure of congestion pricing to result in an increase in person or freight throughput or a reduction in person hours of delay.

The language states that surplus revenues generated from a congestion pricing program can be allocated to “any other purpose for which Federal funds may be obligated.” This presumably means eligible for funding under title 23 or under chapter 53 of title 49, United States Code.

The has been incorporated as part of a broader Democratic infrastructure bill containing non-transportation elements, which will head to the House floor next week.

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