As U.S. Dept. of Transportation officials continue to craft a proposed surface transportation bill, the department is dismissing a draft legislative text recently obtained and published by a transportation newsletter.

A DOT spokesman says the document is an "early working draft that was never formally circulated" in the Obama administration and "does not represent the views of the President."

DOT is still working on the transportation legislation. Secretary Ray LaHood said at a May 5 press conference on bus safety that "over the next week or so" the department will be sending to Congress some " terms of what we believe should be in a transportation bill."

But according to a DOT official, that information will be technical assistance to Congress and not a full draft bill.

LaHood had said in early March that DOT officials were working with the Office of Management and Budget on the legislation and added at the time that he hoped the bill would be released soon.
But that detailed proposal has yet to come out.

But DOT also is seeking to knock down the 498-page draft bill that was obtained by Transportation Weekly, and which other publications, such as Congressional Quarterly's CQ Today and Streetsblog, have reported on.

The draft basically tracks with the  proposal that U.S. DOT outlined in February for a $555.9-billion, six-year highway-transit-passenger rail authorization.  But the draft does include some new items, such as multiple, but vague, references to a  "new energy tax."

But DOT spokesman Justin Nisly said in a statement: "This is not an administration proposal. This was an early working draft that was never formally circulated within the administration, does not take into account the advice of the President’s senior advisors or Cabinet officials, and does not represent the views of the President.”

In fact, Transportation Weekly itself attaches caveats to the undated draft, saying that it "was circulated some time ago" at U.S. DOT and OMB. The publication adds, "It is not the final version of the bill that the Obama administration will eventually transmit to Congress (if indeed they ever do submit a bill to Congress). It is merely a snapshot of what the White House and U.S. DOT were thinking about including in their reauthorization proposal at one point in time."

Meanwhile, House and Senate committees are drafting their versions of a new surface-transportation bill. Construction and transportation groups are awaiting more details of that proposed legislation, which is critically important to their members.

The next deadline for the lawmakers is Sept. 30, when the latest of several stopgap highway and transit program authorizations expires. 

The programs have been operating under the extensions since Sept. 30, 2009, when the last multi-year surface transportation measure, the 2005 Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), lapsed.