Congress has approved a spending bill that will avert a shutdown and keep agencies operating through Sept. 30. Construction industry officials were pleased that the final version funds the federal highway program at levels contained in 2012's Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, or MAP-21.

The Senate on March 20 passed a continuing resolution (CR) drafted by Appropriations Committee Chairman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) with the panel's ranking Republican, Richard Shelby (Ala.). The House approved the Senate measure on March 21. The bill,  which the Congressional Budget Office estimates at $975 billion, next goes to the White House for President Obama's expected signature. Enactment is needed by March 27, when a stopgap appropriations bill is due to expire.

In a key provision, the CR sets the 2013 federal-aid highway obligation limit at MAP-21's $39.7 billion. An earlier House version called for $39.1 billion. 

Industry officials pushed to see the MAP-21 highway funding level included in the CR. David Bauer, American Road & Transportation Builders Association senior vice president, told ENR before the Senate March 20 vote, "The point we've been trying to make is that MAP-21 is a step in the right direction. It doesn't solve all of our problems, but it ought to be given a chance to deliver results." Pam Whitted, National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association senior vice president, says, "We're very supportive of the Senate [CR]. The intention of Congress was to fund MAP-21 at a slightly higher level based on the inflation costs, and they offset it." Brian Deery, senior director of the Associated General Contractors highway and transportation division, says, "The funds are there, and they should spend it."

The CR also has $3.6 billion for Environmental Protection Agency water infrastructure, down 1% from 2012, including $1.45 billion for wastewater-treatment state revolving funds and $909 million for drinking-water SRFs. It also provides $688 million for embassy security upgrades at high-risk posts.

Story updated on March 21 to include Senate and House votes.