Levin, Tlaib propose $500 billion for electrifying public transit over next decade

Riley Beggin
The Detroit News

Washington — Michigan Reps. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township and Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, and other progressive members of Congress introduced legislation Thursday to spend $500 billion over the next decade to electrify public transit. 

The legislation, dubbed the BUILD GREEN Act, will be introduced in the House by Levin and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and in the Senate by Massachusetts Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey. 

An electric bus made by BYD arrives at a public transportation hub in Shenzhen, China.

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“Electrifying our cars, buses and trains is a central pillar of the Green New Deal. The answer to both the climate crisis and the crisis of wealth inequality is to empower working people with the sustainable investments necessary to rebuild the communities devastated by decades of pollution and corporate trade policy,” Levin said in a statement. 

"The BUILD GREEN Act will deliver the transformational change demanded by the American people while ensuring that we build the green economy of the 21st century here at home with good-paying, union jobs.”

The bill would represent a massive increase in spending on electric infrastructure, and at around $50 billion annually would top current federal spending on highways, which was $46 billion last year. President Joe Biden and transportation industry leaders have urged investment in charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

The group says the package would reduce carbon emissions to the equivalent of taking 4.5 million internal-combustion-engine vehicles off the road. There are more than 250 million vehicles on the road in the U.S. today.

$150 billion of the funding would be set aside for electric rail, vehicles and charging equipment. Other projects could include highway or bridge construction that would install publicly-available electric vehicle equipment, electrifying ports, and other projects that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The 2020 Audi e-tron Sportback hooks up at an Electrfy America fast charger. The EA network is competitive with Tesla's Supercharger network.

State, local and tribal governments, transit agencies and port authorities would be eligible for grants under the program, which the lawmakers said is modeled off of an existing grant program in the Department of Transportation. 

Sixty to sixty-five percent of the funding would go to projects in urban areas while 35-40% would go to projects in rural areas. At least 40% of the funding would have to go to projects in "vulnerable and disadvantaged" communities. Depending on the project, grants would be at least $1 or $2 million. 

Each state would receive at least $2 billion and no single state would receive more than $40 billion, and the Department of Transportation would fund 85% of project costs. 

Any group accepting a grant under the program would be required to pay workers at least $15 per hour, a wage that would grow over time to mirror increases in the median hourly wage nationwide, or prevailing wage, whatever is higher.

Grantees would also have to guarantee at least 12 weeks of paid leave for family and medical emergencies and show a preference for local hiring. 

The legislation comes as Congress begins work on a massive $2 trillion infrastructure spending bill that would target roads, bridges, water infrastructure and more nationwide. 

rbeggin@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @rbeggin