By Lauren Schapker, vice president of legislative affairs, ARTBA
Federal highway, bridge and public transportation programs will likely be extended for one year, according to a tentative deal reached Sept. 18 between Congressional leaders and expected to be finalized in the coming days. The FAST Act surface transportation authorization and annual spending laws all expire at the end of this month.
House and Senate leaders agreed that very few policy changes would be attached to both the FAST Act extension and the must-pass continuing resolution (CR) that will likely fund other government programs through Dec. 11.
The House is expected to consider the legislation the week of Sept. 21, to avert a government shutdown. The Senate would have to vote before Sept. 30, but it’s unclear when.
Any COVID-19-related measures, including aid to state departments of transportation (DOTs), would be dealt with separately, if at all.
The FAST Act extension will provide surface transportation programs with flat funding over the next 12 months and does not account for the erosion of purchasing power caused by inflation–$47.1 billion for highway programs and $12.3 billion for transit programs.
A General Fund transfer will be needed to ensure solvency of the Highway Trust Fund over the duration of the extension. Congressional leaders and the Trump administration offered wide-ranging estimates of the amount needed to bridge the gulf between current balances and expected user fee revenues.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously passed the highway portion of FAST Act replacement legislation in July 2019, but other committees with jurisdiction failed to move forward on their portions of the bill. The House moved a $1.5 trillion infrastructure package July 1 that included its version of a new reauthorization of federal highway and public transit programs.
ARTBA will continue to push Congress for dedicated aid for state DOTs and public transit agencies, who are dealing with pandemic-induced revenue shortfalls, in any subsequent COVID-19 relief package.
Check the Washington Newsline website for updates.