Many construction and transportation officials' eyes are on the Senate, which is due to vote soon on a short-term "fix" for the deteriorating Highway Trust Fund. Some action is all but certain by Aug. 1, when Congress begins a month-long break.
The main vehicle before the Senate is the 10-month,
$10.8-billion trust fund infusionthat the House passed on July 15.
But Senate leaders also have agreed to consider as many as four amendments:
Here they are, identified by their sponsors:
Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)/Orrin Hatch (R-Utah): the patch that the Senate Finance Committee cleared on July 10. It also calls for a$10.8-billion transfer, but omits the House language that also reauthorizes the surface transportation programs from Sept. 30 through May 31, 2015. Wyden is the Finance Committee's chairman and Hatch is the panel's top GOP member.
Tom Carper (D-Del.)/Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)/Barbara Boxer (D-Calif): among other things, this proposal would reduce the patch to about an $8-billion transfer to the trust fund, which would be enough to keep the fund in the black through December. The amendment's sponsors feel that tighter time frame would put pressure on Congress to act by the end of this year on a long-term highway-transit reauthorization.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah): A plan to and reduce the federal gasoline tax to 3.7¢ per gallon from the current 18.4¢ and "devolve" most of the highway program responsibilities to the states. Leeexplained: "Under this new system, Americans would no longer have to send significant gas-tax revenue to Washington, where politicians, bureaucrats and lobbyists take their cut before sending it back with strings attached."
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.): A proposal to exempt repairs to highways, bridges and transit facilities damaged by storms and other natural disasters from environmental reviews. Toomeysaid: "To get help quickly to the victims, states and municipalities should be able to make essential infrastructure-based repairs without having to navigate excessive red tape."