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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation
House passes short-term fix to Highway Trust Fund
Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a short-term funding measure that would provide $10.9 billion to the Highway Trust Fund, an amount considered sufficient to support current spending levels of federal highway and mass transit accounts through May 31, 2015.
The measure also would extend authorizations for the federal highway and transit program through May 31, 2015, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) announced yesterday in a "Legislative Alert."
The Senate is expected to vote on the House's legislation as early as next week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) indicated that he expects to hold votes on the House bill, as well as the Senate Finance Committee's companion legislation and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee's (EPW) proposal to extend the authorizations for the federal highway and transit programs through the end of the current calendar year, according to APTA officials.
"If Congress fails to act, thousands of transportation projects and hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country will be at risk," said Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) in a prepared statement. "This legislation provides much-needed certainty and stability for states."
President Obama has expressed support for both the House and Senate bills, and there are indications he would sign either variation.
While the legislation would prevent the Highway Trust Fund from running out of money as early as next month, some lawmakers expressed disappointment that Congress is not doing more to pass a long-term reauthorization of the federal surface transportation law known as MAP-21, which expires on Sept. 31.
"Sadly, the House has kicked the can down the road and has decided to shirk its responsibility to fix the Highway Trust Fund in this Congress. They have failed to send a message of certainty and confidence to the thousands of businesses and millions of workers who have asked us to act this year on a long-term solution for transportation," said U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), in a prepared statement.
Boxer supports a short-term fix through December that would allow consideration of a long-term bill this Congress. Boxer chairs the EPW Committee, which on May 15 unanimously passed the MAP-21 Reauthorization Act, a bipartisan bill that would reauthorize the nation's transportation programs for six years at current funding levels plus inflation.
Shuster, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and co-sponsored the House bill, said the legislation would not preclude Congress from continuing to work on addressing a long-term funding solution and long-term reauthorization bill.
"However, this legislation is the responsible solution at this time, ensures that we don't play politics with these programs, and enables us to continue making improvements to our surface transportation system," he said.
Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.