With no agreement in sight on a multi-year transportation bill, Congress was on the verge of approving a measure that would continue the highway and transit programs for eight months. The House passed the legislation on Sept. 30 by a 409-8 vote and the Senate was expected to approve it later that day.
Transportation programs have been operating under a series of five short extensions since Sept. 30, 2003, when the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century expired. The new legislation would carry the programs through May 31. It provides $24.5 billion over that period for surface transportation programs, which is eight-twelfths of the 2005 amount provided under the six-year transport bill the House approved in April.
David Bauer, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association's vice president for government relations, says that an eight-month bill is "certainly better news for the overall marketplace than a series of one- or two-month extensions." But he adds, "It's still not as good as a multi-year bill."
Bauer notes that the extension also indicates that work will continue on a multi-year successor to TEA-21. "This is something that's not going away. It's going to require continued presence and activism on the part of industry to try and pursue our priorities"
In the Senate, Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) didn't back a six-month extension recently proposed by Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Christopher Bond (R-Mo). But Inhofe will support the eight-month bill, says committee spokesman Will Hart. Nevertheless, Hart adds that Inhofe's top priority is still "to get a six-year bill done this year. He expects that bipartisan and bicameral talks will continue and...he hopes that we're able to come to an agreement and be able to pass a six-year bill when we come back in a lame-duck session."