A host of federal transportation policy issues await the House and Senate as members return April 28 from a two-week recess—including the potential shut down of federal highway and transit investment in October. Both the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee and the Obama Administration claim they will release multi-year surface transportation reauthorization bills soon. The outlook for those measures, however, will be dictated by how Congress deals with the looming Highway Trust Fund (HTF) revenue shortfall.
If Congress does not stabilize the trust fund, the U.S. Department of Transportation says it will begin slowing down reimbursements to states for previously approved federal-aid highway projects in late-August, and the Congressional Budget Office projects there would be no new federal highway or transit investment in FY 2015. As Congress is scheduled to take its annual, month-long recess during August, the deadline for addressing the HTF’s challenge is July. It is projected that Congress would need to infuse the trust fund with $7 to $10 billion to preserve existing federal highway and transit investment through the end of December. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees typically produce transportation funding bills in May, but it is unclear how appropriators will proceed on the FY 2015 measure given the uncertainty surrounding the HTF.
Action is also expected on a long-overdue reauthorization of the federal port and waterway programs. The House and Senate overwhelmingly approved water resource bills in 2013, and a final bill reconciling the two chambers’ approaches is expected soon.