Transportation, construction, business and union groups drew a crowd estimated in the hundreds to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for a "Rally for Roads" designed to show support for a new, long-delayed highway-transit authorization bill.
Their campaign got a boost less than a week earlier, when the Senate approved a two-year, $109-billion bill.
The organizers of the March 20 rally, which included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and about a dozen transportation and construction groups, were really aiming their message at House Republican leaders, who have yet to round up enough votes to pass their version of a long-term transport bill.
Those at the rally, some in hard hats, others in baseball caps, held signs saying "Make Transportation Job #1" and "Roads=Better Jobs." They heard Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) urge them: "Get over to the House and tell it to them straight ahead—Tell them to pick up the Senate bill and pass it."
But House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.), who spoke at the rally, told reporters afterward that the chamber's GOP leaders were working on yet another extension. If approved, it would be the ninth such stopgap since September 2009, when the last long-term bill expired.
Mica said he had been consulting with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) about the stopgap and added, "A decision will be made on the length of an extension, hopefully in the next 24 hours, and it will up [on the House floor] next week...."
Mica also said he and Boehner continue to work on a long-term bill. Mica's committee had cleared a $260-billion, five-year combination transportation-energy development measure in early February. But the measure has been stuck ever since.
A short extension would keep highway and transit programs going past March 31, when the current stopgap lapses. But it would be a disappointment to those at the rally and others in the industry.