Legislative Update: August 2021

Scenic America Celebrates Wins for Scenic Priorities in House & Senate Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bills

U.S. Capitol Building

As Congress works toward a final version of the surface transportation reauthorization bill in anticipation of a resolution this fall, Scenic America celebrates significant wins in the draft legislation on the following issues, on which we played leading advocacy roles:

  • The House bill incorporates undergrounding into a Title 23 “protective features” definition for undergrounding. This includes the National Highway Performance Program ($28.57 billion per year), Surface Transportation Program ($14.74 billion per year), Predisaster mitigation program ($1.53 billion per year), Bridge Investment ($1 billion per year), Emergency Relief ($100 million per year but the ability to get more), and Wildlife Crossings Program ($100 million per year).

  • The House bill also creates the Dig Once Task Force which coordinates undergrounding of all utilities.

  • The Senate bill gave access for undergrounding to the National Highway Performance Program ($31.6 billion per year).

  • The Senate bill also includes a new $5 billion per year program to prevent outages and enhancing the resilience of the electric grid—undergrounding is eligible.

  • The Senate bill also amends the Stafford Act to allow undergrounding of wires as part of FEMA emergency funds.

  • The House bill allocates $345 million per year for the Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) for gateway communities and includes our language. The Senate bill gives $300 million per year and also includes our language.

  • The House bill has $64 million in guaranteed funding for byways over four years and another $156 million over four years subject to appropriation. Although the Senate bill does not include byways funding, Scenic America’s work continues to ensure that Congress identifies funding for this program, whether through this legislative vehicle or other opportunities.