House subcommittee Chairman Petri says added time was needed to
get long-term bill.

With no deal yet in sight on a multi-year transportation bill, Congress has approved another stopgap to keep federal highway and transit money flowing. The new, 30-day extension would be the seventh stopgap since Sept. 30, 2003, when the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, the last big highway and transit statute, expired.

The Senate approved the extension on May 26 by voice vote; the House passed it the previous evening. The legislation next will go to the White House for President Bush's signature. Without a new bill, transportation programs lapse on May 31. Congress completed action on the extension the day before the start of its Memorial Day recess.

House highways, transit and pipelines subcommittee Chairman Thomas E. Petri (R-Wisc.) said before the chamber approved the latest extension, "We need to take this action to give us some more time to get a long-term authorization in place." The Senate and House have approved differing versions of a multi-year surface transportation bill, but haven't begun formal negotiations to reconcile their respective measures.

Extension Seven provides an additional $2.8 billion in highway contract authority, which brings the total to $25.5 billion since fiscal year 2005 began last Oct. 1.

For state transportation officials, contractors and design firms, the latest 30-day bill continues a frustrating period in limbo. Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors, said, "The longer Congress delays passage of a highway reauthorization bill, the more states are going to suffer with deteriorating roads, increased congestion and fewer safety improvements.”

(Photo courtesy of Office of Rep. Thomas E. Petri)