As the lame-duck congressional session continues, a further extension for federal highway and transit programs looks more and more likely. The current short-term surface-transportation authorization expires on Dec. 31. Signals have emerged that another stopgap is in the cards.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) told reporters after a Nov. 17 hearing that she is working on a highway-bill extension that would run through the middle of 2011. Boxer’s panel has jurisdiction over highways; other Senate committees oversee transit and highway safety.
With a multiyear bill almost certainly dead for the year, outgoing House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) has recommended a one-year surface-transportation measure. That committee has broad, multimodal transportation responsibilities.
Construction and state transportation officials strongly prefer a full, multiyear reauthorization, but the closest that came to reality was Oberstar’s $500-billion, six-year highway-transit-rail measure that made it through subcommittee in 2009 but went no further—there was no agreement among the House, Senate and White House on a revenue source for a major funding boost.
Oberstar said at an Nov. 16 press conference, “If we’re not going to do the six-year bill in the balance of this Congress, then we ought to do a one-year authorization in the hope that the new Congress will come to an agreement on a financing mechanism for a six-year bill.”