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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Senate sends short-term transportation bill to Obama, OKs multi-year transportation legislation


By a vote of 91-4, the U.S. Senate yesterday passed the House's three-month extension of federal surface transportation funding, which was set to expire today. The legislation now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The bill extends transportation funding to Oct. 29 by transferring $2 billion from the general fund to the Highway Trust Fund’s (HTF) Mass Transit Account, and $6 billion to the HTF.

The Senate also approved a long-term surface transportation bill that would provide guaranteed funding for highway and transit infrastructure for three years.

The chamber voted 65-34 on the legislation, which also would extend the deadline for positive train control implementation to 2018.

After returning from August recess, the House of Representatives will take up the Senate's bill, which is also known as the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act.

The House is also expected to create its own-long-term surface transportation bill.

American Public Transportation Association (APTA) President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Melaniphy commended the Senate's passage of the long-term bill, but noted that additional work remained.

"Congress should work to fully fund the six years of the bill," he said in a statement. "We also urge the House of Representatives to act expeditiously after it returns from the August recess so that final legislation is completed before the October 29 deadline."

U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) also praised the passage the passage of the DRIVE Act.

"Americans have had enough with short-term extensions and no longer want to see Congress kicking the can down the road," they said in a statement. "We now have three more months to work to advance a long-term funding solution with the U.S. House of Representatives, which is ample time to break the cycle of short-term patches."

Additional reactions to the Senate's long-term bill follow:

"AASHTO has long advocated for long-term surface transportation legislation because it provides certainty. We commend the Senate for approving a multi-year bill. It took strong leadership from both parties in the EPW, Commerce and Banking committees to write a bill that could earn such strong bipartisan support in the Senate." — The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

"Although the Senate’s DRIVE Act is welcome relief from stopgap transportation measures, it is extremely disappointing that the House remains content with another three-month extension, despite their pledges to deliver a long-term bill.  Hopefully, the House can produce a robust bill when they return from their summer recess after Labor Day, but there are major hurdles to overcome." — David Raymond, president and chief executive officer of the American Council of Engineering Companies

"It would be difficult to find someone who dislikes short-term fixes for the Highway Trust Fund more than me, but even I can see that pressing the pause button is sometimes the best move. … At the end of the day, the [DRIVE Act] is too short, too small, and too full of policies that need more thought. This is truly a missed opportunity. I know that we can do better." — U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.)

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/31/2015