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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Transportation, construction advocates rally for surface transportation reauthorization


Yesterday, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, other senators and representatives of the transportation and construction industries held a rally outside the U.S. Capitol to urge the House-Senate Transportation Conference Committee to pass a conference report that would reauthorize the nation’s surface transportation law.

The conference committee has been working since May 8 to hash out the details of a longer-term bill with the goal of passing legislation before an extension of the current SAFETEA-LU law expires on June 30.

Officials at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and other transportation groups have expressed concern that the committee won’t agree on a bill in time.

“It is critical that this legislation be enacted by June 30,” AASHTO officials said yesterday in a letter presented to the committee’s 47 members. “A six-month extension is not the way to go. This approach could further exacerbate the Highway Trust Fund's financial crisis and cause states to cut back on transportation investments during what should be the peak construction season.”

Last week, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) added to their concerns when he suggested that a six-month extension of the existing SAFETEA-LU law might be the best option for now, AASHTO officials said.

Meanwhile, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and is a conference committee member, issued a statement yesterday on the committee’s status.

“I remain hopeful that we can reach a bicameral compromise with the Senate. However, I am disappointed in the fact that Senate negotiators have yet to move significantly on key House reform proposals,” Mica said. “In addition, the Senate leadership appears unwilling to compromise at all on the Keystone XL pipeline. I will confer with our House conferees [today], who have been directly involved in the negotiations, to discuss the status of the transportation bill conference.”

One point of contention is the proposal to include construction approval of the Keystone oil pipeline, which would extend from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, in the surface transportation bill. Democrats oppose that proposal.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/14/2012