US House of Representatives
passes highway bill extension
Sep 26, 2009 1:14 PM
The US House of Representatives approved by a vote of 335-85 a three-month extension of the current highway authorization bill recently. The current program, known as SAFETEA-LU (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users), was due to expire September 30, 2009. The extension approved by the House would extend funding for three months for programs paid for from the highway trust fund, but would not make any policy changes or authorize new projects.
On July 15, 2009, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee passed an 18-month extension of the current authorization, and that bill is pending in the Senate. Before consideration by the full Senate, other committees with jurisdiction over surface transportation must also pass spending authorization extensions. While the EPW Committee has jurisdiction over bridges and highways, the Senate Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over safety, motor carriers, and freight transportation; the Senate Banking Committee has jurisdiction over public transit. Once the extension passed those committees, it would be voted on by the full Senate.
The Obama administration and Senate leaders have publicly stated they support an 18-month extension of the current highway program. The House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN) had been pushing for passage of a six-year, $500 million authorization before the current program expires, rather than passage of an extension. With the House passage of the three-month extension and the 18-month extension pending in the Senate, Congress will have to reach a final agreement on the length of the extension.
An extension of SAFETEA-LU would mean no policy changes would occur until that extension expires. Authorization of a new highway program could mean changes in funding mechanisms or new mandates, such as Electronic On Board Recorders (EOBRs) for motor carriers.
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