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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Congressional leaders appear closer to agreement on transportation bill


Transportation industry officials appear encouraged today by the possibility of congressional action on a transportation reauthorization bill in the near future, according to statements issued by various industry associations.

Their statements followed a joint statement issued yesterday by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee and the House and Senate Transportation Conference Committee, and Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“The conferees have moved forward toward a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on a highway reauthorization bill. Both House and Senate conferees will continue to work with a goal of completing a package by next week,” Boxer and Mica said.

The Conference Committee has been meeting since May 8 to negotiate differences between the Senate’s two-year surface transportation reauthorization bill passed earlier this year, and proposals sought by House Republicans.

Also, in a press conference held yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters that he didn’t think Congress would have to pass another extension of the SAFETEA-LU law. The ninth and latest extension will expire June 30.

Moreover, in a statement issued on the House floor yesterday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said he is hopeful a conference report will be filed next week and passed by both the House and Senate. But Republican leaders are preparing a short-term extension if necessary to avoid a shutdown of transit and highway programs if the deadline passes without a bill, according to a “Legislative Alert” from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

Boxer and Mica, along with their staffs, reportedly spent most of Wednesday and Thursday meeting behind closed doors to hash out the major differences between the House and Senate positions, the APTA alert states.

One of the major sticking points has been the House’s desire to include in the bill the approval for construction of the Keystone pipeline between Canada and the U.S. Gulf Coast, but there has been no word on that issue’s status, according to the alert.

Meanwhile, transportation and other business organizations continued their call for Congress to act on long-term legislation that funds surface transportation programs.

“The U.S. Chamber congratulates Chairmen Boxer and Mica and House and Senate leadership for moving towards a final agreement on the highway and public transportation and reauthorization bill,” said Janet Kavinoky, executive director of transportation and infrastructure for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a prepared statement. “We are increasingly confident that this agreement will include critical reforms that will greatly improve the business of transportation investment in this country.”

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/22/2012