White House photo/Chuck Kennedy
Obama, with DOT Secretary LaHood and engineering and construction workers behind him, urges Congress to pass transportation bills.

President Obama has called on congressional lawmakers to pass bills to extend surface-transportation and aviation programs “as soon as they come back” from the August break.

The seventh stopgap highway-transit authorization since 2009 is set to expire on Sept. 30 and the 21st Federal Aviation Administration extension since 2007 is slated to lapse on Sept. 16.

In remarks delivered on Aug. 31 in the White House Rose Garden, Obama said he wants “clean extensions” of both measures--meaning that he doesn't want them to include any policy or funding changes.

He did not specify how long he wants the extensions to be, except to say that the FAA extension should be longer than the current one, which spans six weeks.

Obama said the bills are critically important to preserve construction jobs, declaring, “It’s inexcusable to put more jobs at risk in an industry that’s already been one of the hardest hit over the last decade.”

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) issued a statement saying he would “agree to one additional highway program extension, this being the eighth of the overdue transportation reauthorization.”

As for the aviation measure, Mica said he will “consult with our Republican leadership before granting the 22nd FAA extension.”

In the Senate, Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) plans to act on a highway extension bill soon, according to committee staff. (In the Senate, the commerce committee is responsible for aviation legislation.)

Construction and transportation groups--including the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association and Association of Equipment Manufacturers—welcomed the President’s call for action on the highway-transit and aviation bills.

Obama also issued an Aug. 31  directive to five Cabinet departments, requiring them to identify up to three already funded “high-priority” infrastructure projects that could be expedited by such steps as speeding permitting and approvals.