Federal highway and transit programs will continue into September under another stopgap transportation bill, which President Bush signed into law on July 30. It is the fifth short-term extension since last Sept. 30, when the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century expired.
The latest stopgap, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2004, Part IV, carries federal transit and highway safety programs through Sept. 30. But the highway program is extended only through Sept. 24. The reason for the shorter extension for highways, congressional aides said, is that House lawmakers wanted time to try to salvage about $2 billion for 2004 transportation projects by Sept. 30, when the fiscal year ends.
The series of stopgaps stems from the failure of Congress to pass a multi-year TEA-21 successor. House and Senate conferees have been meeting to reconcile differences over a six-year bill, but had not yet reached a deal before July 23, when Congress began a six-week recess.
If no extension had been enacted by Aug. 1, federal highway and transit agencies would have been forced into a virtually total shutdown.