After enduring 12 extensions before the Safe Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act—a Legacy for Users became law in 2005, state departments of transportation and construction companies see the troublesome cycle repeating. SAFETEA-LU lapsed on Sept. 30, and they’re already on stopgap No. 2. A newly enacted spending package authorizes highway and transit programs through Dec. 18. Beyond that, another extension, probably measured in months, not years, is virtually assured.

The spending measure, which President Obama signed on Oct. 30, also provides full fiscal 2010 appropriations for Interior Dept. and Environmental Protection Agency programs. In addition, it extends funding through Dec. 18, generally at 2009 levels, for other accounts for which Congress has yet to pass 2010 spending bills. They include such important construction programs as highways, military projects and General Services Administration federal buildings.

Congress has approved only five of the 12 appropriations measures for FY2010, which began Oct. 1. Agencies covered by those five­­—agriculture, energy and water, homeland security, legislative branch, and now Interior-environment—are funded through September 2010. The new package’s Interior-environment appropriations title includes a huge increase for EPA water programs. Aid for clean water state revolving funds more than tripled, to $2.1 billion, and drinking water SRFs jumped 67%, to $1.4 billion. “Those are great numbers,” says Steve Hall, American Council of Engineering Companies’ vice president for government affairs.

What the spending package contains:
Extends SAFETEA-LU highway-transit authorization through Dec. 18.
Extends appropriations for most federal agencies (e.g., Dept. of Transportation, General Services Administration, Dept. of Defense) through Dec. 18, generally at fiscal 2009 levels.
Provides full fiscal 2010 appropriations for Interior Dept. and EPA, including:
EPA water infrastructure grants 2,968 4,970 +67
Clean water SRFs 689 2,100 +205
Drinking water SRFs 829 1,387 +67
EPA Superfund 1,285 1,307 +2
National Park Service construction 233 233 0
Source: Appropriations Committees. Funding in $ mil. *excludes fy09 emergency ARRA spending

The highway-transit extension keeps those programs going, but its short span poses problems. Jack Basso, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ program, finance and management director, says state DOTs feel they can’t start long-term projects because they lack certainty about long-term federal funding. For construction companies, says Brian Deery, senior director of the Associated General Contractors’ highway and transportation division, “It’s not good news.”