While waiting for Congress to resume discussions on a new, multi-year transportation bill, state officials are assessing how a further one-year legislative extension would affect their agencies' construction plans.
There wasn't a one-year extension proposal on the table for House and Senate transport bill negotiators when Congress began its six-week summer break on July 23. But with no deal yet on a multi-year bill and Congress expected to adjourn in October, a one-year extension isn't outside the realm of possibility.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials has asked its member departments of transportation to report by Aug. 23 on the effects of a one-year extension. AASHTO expects to release the results about the second week of September, says Jack Basso, director of management and business development.
Basso says AASHTO's survey, sent Aug. 5, asks state DOT's to assess the impact a one-year continuation would have on their coming construction season, including planning and design work.
It also asks about the effect on "advance construction" projects, in which states use their own funds to keep highway work going, while waiting for federal aid to reimburse them later. In addition, AASHTO is requesting information on how a year-long extension would affect states' commitments for Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles--"GARVEE" bonds--in which states in which states issue debt and use future federal transportation funds to repay it.
The AASHTO survey, sent Aug. 5, also asks state DOTs how this year's series of short-term stopgap transportation measures has affected agencies' bid lettings this year, compared with totals for 2003 and 2002.
Before beginning its summer recess, Congress passed the fifth stopgap bill since the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century expired last Sept. 30. The latest extension, which President Bush signed into law on July 30, continues the federal highway program through Sept. 24 and the transit and safety programs through Sept. 30.
The extensions have been necessary because lawmakers have been unable to agree on a new, multi-year measure. Differences over the funding in that long-term bill have been the big stumbling block.