Why passage of a long-term highway bill is unlikely this year

By |  September 16, 2015

capitolThere goes the industry’s chance this year for a long-term highway bill.

That was my reaction upon reading earlier this month that the U.S. Department of Transportation updated its Highway Trust Fund ticker and reported that the federal government is unlikely to run out of money for infrastructure projects until June 2016.

Industry stakeholders must have had the same thought upon reading that more funds are apparently available than originally anticipated. Congress still faces an Oct. 29 deadline to extend a federal policy authorizing highway spending. But the urgency that existed knowing funds would run out sooner than later lessens the likelihood of a long-term highway bill making its way through Congress this year.

Transportation lobbyists aren’t giving up hope, though. According to The Hill, long-term highway bill advocates are urging the House to pass an existing, six-year Senate bill that provides three guaranteed years of funding. Also, the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA) and some of its members were on Capitol Hill this week to discuss the need for a long-term highway bill with congressional representatives.

But how much of a priority is such a bill for Congress at the moment? As NSSGA President and CEO Mike Johnson outlines in a Sept. 11 letter to his members, Congress has a lot to do this session.

“Congress is going to be so busy this session that they may not even get to some high-profile issues, such as a Senate vote on the cybersecurity bill, the Internal Revenue Service cyber-breach, a mine spill in Colorado caused by the Environmental Protection Agency and multiple votes to repeal or modify Obamacare,” Johnson writes.

In all likelihood, another short-term patch will be in the works for transportation stakeholders. The next patch would be the 35th consecutive one, NSSGA reports. A patch would lead the industry into another election year.

“Traditionally, little if anything is accomplished when members of Congress are running for office – especially during a presidential contest,” Johnson writes.

Take all of these factors plus the do-little nature of this Congress into consideration, and passage of a long-term highway bill before year’s end is a bit of a stretch.

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry magazine. Yanik can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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