Unable to produce a multi-year transportation bill so far, the House has approved legislation that would extend the highway and transit programs for four more months. The bill, passed on Feb. 11 by a vote of 421-0, would avert a cutoff of federal surface transportation funding on Feb. 29. If the Senate goes along and President Bush signs the measure, it would extend the transportation programs through June 20, and provide more than $25 billion in highway contract authority and $5 billion in mass transit funding.

The current statute, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, expired last Sept. 30. With no long-term bill ready at that point, Congress approved a five-month extension, which runs out on Feb. 29.

The Senate is debating a $318-billion, six-year successor to TEA-21 and hoped to wrap up debate by Feb. 14, the start of its Presidents' Day break. While Senate lawmakers say they want a six-year bill, Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said that a short extension will be necessary.

Young says extension is
‘must-pass' measure.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) introduced a $375-billion, six-year reauthorization bill last November, but an aide had said a smaller bill at about the Senate's level, was expected to emerge from the House.

Young said if his $375-billion proposal "is reduced to the level of the Senate bill, many worthy programs and projects will be reduced or possibly eliminated from the bill." But Young added, "In the interim, this four-month extension is a 'must-pass' bill. If we don't pass this bill and send it to the President before February 29th, four Dept. of Transportation agencies will close their doors and furlough their employees...."

(Photo courtesy of Office of Rep. Don Young)