Build Back Better bill contains nearly $20 billion for better transit and high-speed rail

Oct. 29, 2021
The initial text of the five-year bill includes $9.75 billion to enhance mobility in low-income and disadvantaged communities and $10 billion for high-speed rail.

On Oct. 28, the White House announced a deal had been reached for President Joe Biden’s economic plan. The Build Back Better framework was put to into legislative text and released by the House of Representatives as H.R. 5376.

The five-year bill is the part of the president’s agenda, which also includes the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. While the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act tackles infrastructures, the Build Back Better legislation takes on social programs and includes efforts to combat climate change. 

The Build Back Better Act includes $9.75 billion through September 2026 in grants to improve access to affordable housing and enhance mobility options for low-income individuals and residents of disadvantaged communities. Among the eligible projects outlined in the bill text are new fixed guideway capital project construction; construction of bus rapid transit (BRT) routes that use zero-emissions vehicles; high-frequency service using zero-emission vehicles; acquisition of zero-emission vehicles or related infrastructure; expanding an area of service or the frequency of service including fare-free or reduced fare service; and renovation or construction of facilities related to service in disadvantaged communities among others.

Additionally, the bill includes $150 million in grants to reduce barriers to zero-emission bus deployment in disadvantaged communities and rural areas.

The bill allocates $10 billion for high-speed rail corridor assistance to support planning and development of public high-speed rail projects. The bill defines high-speed rail as ground transportation expected to reach speeds of 160 mph or faster on shared use right-of way or 186 mph or faster on dedicated right-of-way.

“President Biden is confident this is a framework that can pass both houses of Congress, and he looks forward to signing it into law. He calls on Congress to take up this historic bill – in addition to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – as quickly as possible,” the White House said.

With the Build Back Better Act inked, Congress can move the both it and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. A vote was expected in the House on the infrastructure package, but it was postponed and a short-term extension of surface transportation legislation was passed that will give Congress until Dec. 3 to pass a longer-term bill. 

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.