With a deadline looming and the Memorial Day break at hand, the Senate on Friday rubber stamped the two-month extension of federal highway authority passed by the House earlier last week.
The legislation, to continue funding surface transportation programs at the Map-21 level through July, goes to the White House. President Obama has said he “does not oppose” an extension to give Congress time to make “meaningful and demonstrable progress” toward a long-term solution. The current authority expires May 31.
U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), leaders of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee—which is charged with developing the policy portion of the surface transportation package in the upper chamber—said the extension would prevent many road, bridge, and transit projects “from coming to a grinding halt.”
“But it's time we end this costly uncertainty with the Highway Trust Fund,” the joint statement said. “The only solution to fixing this problem is to enact a consensus-based, bipartisan, six-year surface transportation bill that will provide states and local communities the funding and the certainty they need to plan and construct multi-year projects to modernize our infrastructure.”
EPW will convene to develop such to legislation on June 24.
But road projects are already in jeopardy, according to the American Assn. of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), whose membership is “disappointed and frustrated,” says Executive Director Bud Wright.
“Millions of dollars that should be flowing into communities, creating jobs and paying for projects to improve safety and mobility aren’t being funded,” Wright said. “Congress must find the political will to pass a long-term bill and put these short-term patches aside.”