Transportation reauthorization going down to wire

By |  June 25, 2012

It’s well documented that the 112th Congress last year was the least productive Congress in modern U.S. history, passing 80 bills as both Democrats and Republicans rarely compromised. Neither party seems to be budging much anytime soon, but as the June 30 transportation bill expiration date looms closer, NSSGA’s 29-person executive committee is urging Congress to enact surface transportation reauthorization legislation before the current extension expires at this month’s end.

The association’s goal at this point is to have Congress enact a “multi-year, well-funded highway bill.”

If Congress does not enact legislation, it’s possible the program could get lost in a lame duck session of Congress – and that means a loss of more funding. Fortunately, after what had been described as “negotiations [that] were going down in flames,” there is optimism on Capitol Hill this week based on bipartisan meetings about the transportation bill that took place last week between key House and Senate leaders.

“The conferees have moved forward toward a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on a highway reauthorization bill,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said in a joint statement last week. “Both House and Senate conferees will continue to work with a goal of completing a package by next week.”

According to Reuters, part of the holdup has been House of Representatives Republicans who’ve insisted on streamlining environmental reviews of road projects and consolidating some federal transportation programs to speed up construction. House Republicans also want to drop a proposal to use gasoline taxes to help pay for ancillary transportation enhancements such as bicycle lanes and flower beds.

Now, as Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) recently announced on the House floor, the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure seems to be giving into those demands – and a new bill could possibly be passed.

Still, given the history of this particular Congress and its inability to enact legislation, it would be somewhat of a surprise if Congress enacted a multi-year highway bill. If a bill does pass, America’s roads stand to benefit, and a slew of new jobs would be on the horizon for a country still in need of work.

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