Highway bill passes Senate, sent to Obama

The U.S. Senate passed the House’s version of the highway bill, extending funding for the Federal Highway Administration for six more months. The bills had passed the House earlier this week

The U.S. Senate passed the House’s version of the highway bill, extending funding for the Federal Highway Administration for six more months. The bills had passed the House earlier this week.

The Senate also passed an extension of the Federal Aviation Administration funding bill, also passed by the House this week.

“It is a positive step for the country that the Congress has passed this historic combination of extensions, which is important for job creation and our nation’s infrastructure,” said U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-FL), chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “With the FAA bill delayed four and half years and a two year delay on the highway measure, Congress must now act responsibly to enact long-term reauthorizations that will put Americans back to work and build our nation’s infrastructure.

The highway bill was set to expire on Sept 30. This is the eighth extension of the long-term Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users that expired in 2009 and will ensure current funding levels for highway and infrastructure projects through March 31, 2012.

“The six-month extension of federal highway and transit programs approved by Congress today ensures the continuation of thousands of job-creating infrastructure projects in every state,” said John Horsley, American Assn. of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) executive director. “We congratulate the House and Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle for their tireless hard work to bring about this positive result. We encourage the president to quickly sign the legislation. AASHTO is prepared to work with Congress and the Administration over the next six months to pass a robust, multiyear, surface transportation reauthorization bill.”

The long-term highway reauthorization bill has been tied up in a number of issues, including the how to pay for any funding. Republicans want to limit the bill to revenues produced by fuel taxes while Democrats generally want more funding approved, between $500 and $600 billion over six years.

“Congress must also focus on passing a multi-year surface transportation bill that does two things: reforms highway and transit policy and programs, and provides the necessary resources to maintain investment in highways, public transportation, and safety,” said Janet Kavinoky, executive director of transportation and infrastructure for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Surface reauthorization can give states the long-term funding certainty to sustain hundreds of thousands of private sector jobs in the short term. In the long term, and with the proper reforms it can be a catalyst to seeding private investment in our infrastructure which will lead to the creation of thousands of additional jobs.

“Absent passage of multi-year reauthorizations there will be continued uncertainty and erratic funding for critical infrastructure investments, and the public and private sectors will continue to respond by delaying projects, withdrawing investment, and laying off employees,” she added.

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