House passes measure that would extend surface transportation funding
September 13, 2011
Earlier today, the House of Representatives approved legislation that would continue to fund federal highway, transit, and highway safety and Federal Aviation Administration programs at current levels.
This follows tense last minute negotiations from earlier this summer to keep the FAA afloat and an ongoing struggle to enact a new long-term surface transportation reauthorization, which, if this measure passes, will have been extended eight times since SAFETEA-LU expired in September 2009.
“While this legislation signifies a bipartisan, bicameral agreement to move forward, it must not be just a temporary band-aid for our important aviation, highway, rail and safety programs and for job creation,” said House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL) in a statement. “To build our nation’s infrastructure and put people to work, we need long-term authorizations of these programs. Unfortunately, this bill is the 22nd FAA extension and the 8th surface transportation extension. Congress has delayed passing a long-term FAA bill for over four years, and a surface transportation bill for two years. This action represents a last chance to roll up our sleeves and get transportation projects in America moving again.”
Last week, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) said it unanimously approved the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012.
EPW officials said that this measure is focused on funding highway programs at current levels through January 30, 2012.
The previous six-year surface transportation authorization—the $286 billion SAFETEA-LU—expired on September 30, 2009 and has been kept afloat since then through a series of continuing resolutions.
“I am very pleased with the unanimous vote today,” said Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), EPW Chairman, in a statement. “I look forward to early action on the Senate floor. The EPW Committee has shown it can work together so that we can put people to work rebuilding the infrastructure of our nation.”
In July, EPW unveiled an outline for its take on new surface transportation legislation.
Entitled Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), this bipartisan proposal, led by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), EPW Chair, and James Inhofe, R-OK, is for a two-year bill, $109 billion bill that would keep funding at current levels that were intact SAFETEA-LU.
This 2-year bill would come at a cost of roughly $109 billion, whereas the House bill, led by T&I Committee Chair John Mica, is a six-year, $230 billion bill.
Investing in transportation and infrastructure was also a key driver of President Obama’s speech to Congress last week in which he called on Congress to pass his “American Jobs Act” Legislation.
In his speech, Obama wasted little time explaining current state of transportation infrastructure in the United States.
“Everyone here knows we have badly decaying roads and bridges all over the country,” he said. “Our highways are clogged with traffic. Our skies are the most congested in the world. It’s an outrage.”
He went on to say that building a world class transportation system is what made the U.S. an economic superpower, while other countries like China are now building newer airports and faster railroads at a time when millions of unemployed construction workers could build them right here in America.
In pushing the urgent need for more infrastructure spending, the bill would call for $50 billion to be allocated for transportation spending—including highway, public transit, intercity rail, and aviation systems—and $10 billion for an infrastructure bank, which he has pushed for multiple times during his term as president.
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