By Lauren Schapker, vice president of legislative affairs, ARTBA
The House of Representatives Sept. 22 agreed 359 to 97 to extend by one-year federal highway, bridge and public transportation programs in a package that would also fund the entire federal government through Dec. 11. The Senate is expected to act on the measure in the coming days.
A surface transportation program interim measure is necessary to keep Highway Trust Fund dollars flowing to the states beyond Sept. 30 because Congress failed to complete a multi-year reauthorization bill by that deadline. As a result, the robust, long-term bills advanced this year in the House and Senate will be set -aside, and the two chambers will have to start the process over again in 2021.
The extension would authorize for FY 2021 the current levels of $47.1 billion for highway programs and $12.3 billion for transit programs. The measure also includes a $13.6 billion one-time transfer to the Highway Trust Fund that is needed to support these proposed investments.
“While we had hoped to reach an agreement between the House and the Senate this year on a modern, multi-year surface transportation bill that moves our country forward, the single most important factor right now is providing certainty to states and local governments that are under the strain of both the pandemic and the resulting economic downturn,” said House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.).
“As many stakeholders continue to navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that states are capable of planning and executing infrastructure projects and preventing any disruptions to the 2021 construction season will keep Americans on the job rebuilding our infrastructure,” said T&I Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-Mo.).
Congress will resume work to finalize FY 2021 spending following the elections and is currently deliberating on a COVID-19 relief package—both of which provide opportunities for ARTBA and our allies to seek increased transportation investment.