With funding authority for the federal highway and transit programs set to expire Feb 29, Senate leaders have agreed on legislation to keep the programs going for another two months. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and the chamber's leadership are in agreement on a "clean," two-month extension, says Will Hart, spokesman for the environment panel. The measure could receive full Senate approval by the end of the day Feb. 26.
But a two-month bill would have to be reconciled with the House, which approved a four-month extension on Feb. 11.
If no extension is approved by midnight Feb. 29, the Federal Highway Administration would have to shut down virtually all its operations, says FHWA Administrator Mary Peters. She told a meeting of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials on Feb. 25 that the agency would be reduced to just one employee--herself--if there is no continuing legislation enacted by the end of the month.
A further extension is needed because Congress still has not approved a multi-year successor to the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century. The Senate did pass its version, a $318-billion, six-year package, on Feb. 12, but things are bogged down in the House. The big issues there are the size of a multi-year bill and how to finance it.