Construction groups and other organizations have launched a lobbying drive, aiming to nudge Congress to pass a new multiyear highway and transit bill. They see a window of opportunity—if not necessity—between now and March 31, when the current stopgap authorization runs out.

To be sure, industry officials have been campaigning for a new bill for a long time, beginning even before the last major surface transportation measure lapsed in September 2009. But now they are turning up the intensity. They know November's elections will keep the 2012 congressional session short, and if there's little progress toward a long-term transportation bill in the coming weeks, yet another extension is likely when the present one expires. A further stopgap probably couldn't be a long one because the Highway Trust Fund highway account is projected to dip into the red next year and would need an infusion to hold spending at present levels.

Industry's heightened efforts include a broad-based program led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a complementary, more targeted one headed by the Associated General Contractors of America. Both carry the tagline "Make Transportation Job #1."

Janet Kavinoky, U.S. Chamber of Commerce executive director for transportation and infrastructure, says she expects 1,000 organizations will sign a letter to Congress calling for a long-term bill funding highway and transit at least at 2011 levels. Outreach in congressional districts and advertising are also part of the plan, she adds.

Also, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association has posted a "gridlock clock" on its website that counts the days that have elapsed since the last multiyear highway-transit bill expired. The count had exceeded 846 days at press time. ARTBA has also set up a toll-free line members can use to inform representatives in Congress about the need for a new bill. Individual construction groups plan Washington fly-ins and other grassroots activity.

Brian Deery, senior director of AGC's highway and transportation division, says, "I think there's a sense that there [are] finally some positive signs coming out of both the Senate and the House to move a bill, and we don't want to let that momentum be stopped."