Word came late Friday afternoon (Oct. 23) that the House is expected to take up H.R. 3819, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2015. This legislation will include the fourth extension of the MAP-21 surface transportation law, which will run from Oct. 30 to Nov. 20. Highway and transit programs are currently operating under an extension enacted July 31 that is set to expire on Oct. 29.
The latest extension, introduced by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), Ranking Democrat Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), was widely expected as Congress has not yet come to an agreement on a long-term surface law. The Senate passed a six year bill in July and the T&I Committee passed their version Oct. 22, which is expected to be brought to the House floor in the coming weeks. Once the bill is passed by the full House, the two bodies will need to work out whatever differences there may be before a final bill can be sent to the President. Given the short duration of the extension and the expected lack of major policy differences in the House and Senate bills, it is believed a conference could be completed in short order, once an agreement on how the new law will be paid for is reached.
The extension is paired with legislation that would extend the deadline until 2018 for rail line owners to implement a safety mechanism known as Positive Train Control (PTC). Similar provisions were part of both the Senate and T&I committee passed surface transportation bills. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) had previously objected to the PTC extension being added to the short term highway extension, but there is not yet word on whether she will maneuver to block the combined bill from moving forward.
ARTBA will continue working in the coming days and weeks to ensure a long-term highway and public transportation law is enacted in 2015.