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Earmark tally for highway bill: $14.8 billion

This would be the first highway bill since 2005 to include earmarks, according to the Eno Center for Transportation

A sign warns drivers of road work ahead near McCamey, Texas on April 10.
A sign warns drivers of road work ahead near McCamey, Texas on April 10. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

More than 73 percent of House members have requested earmarks in the federal highway bill.

In all, 318 members of Congress submitted 2,380 projects for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to consider in its upcoming surface transportation bill, said committee Chairman Peter A. DeFazio, D-Ore., and ranking Republican Sam Graves, R-Mo.

Of those requests, 1,775 came from Democratic members and 605 came from Republican members. Of the 219 members of the House Democratic Caucus, 213 requested earmarks, while 105 members of the 212-member GOP Conference did.

Republican lawmakers were more aggressive in seeking earmarks for the separate fiscal 2022 spending bills, according to data compiled by the House Appropriations Committee released Monday.

Of the total $5.9 billion in earmarks requested for those bills through Monday, Republicans, who make up less than one-third of members requesting projects, sought 45 percent of the total dollars. The median for Democrats was about $10.8 million worth of requests; for Republicans, around $15.9 million.

The total cost of the earmark requests released Tuesday by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is $14.8 billion.

Those are for the reauthorization of a five-year surface transportation law, a one-year extension of the 2015 act, which expires Sept. 30. The bill, also known as the highway bill, authorizes spending on roads, bridges, rail and public transit to help communities in every state and territory in the U.S. move forward on badly needed infrastructure projects.

In reinstating an earmark process that had been discontinued in 2011, DeFazio and Graves agreed to require that all project requests include documentation on projects, including letters of support from local or state entities; on sources of funding for the full share of the cost of the project beyond the amount requested; on where it was in the environmental review and permitting process; and which project phase it was in and whether it received prior federal funding. Members were also required to certify that they, their spouse or family members did not have a financial interest in the project.

In the lead-up to the release, DeFazio indicated that each member will be able to designate an equal amount — between $15 million and $20 million — for specific projects regardless of whether they vote for or against the bill.

But what members requested varies dramatically. While Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., requested $23,408.00 for a road rehabilitation project in his district, Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., asked for nearly $946 million for full federal funding for a connector project connecting LA 1 to LA 30 in his district. Graves also requested $1.6 million for an environmental evaluation of that project and $8 million for pre-engineering design for the project.

Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Wash., meanwhile, requested $665 million for the widening of State Route 18 in her district.

DeFazio requested 10 projects, varying in cost from $486,400 to $5 million. His projects include paving projects, pedestrian bridges and transit vehicle replacements. Rep. Sam Graves requested six projects, including a $700,000 trail connector and $19 million for a Safe Streets and Sidewalks Plan for Excelsior Springs, Mo.

This would be the first highway bill since the 2005 highway law to include earmarks, according to the Eno Center for Transportation.

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