By Lauren Schapker, vice president of legislative affairs, ARTBA

Federal highway, bridge and public transportation programs would be extended for one year under a House bill that also funds the federal government through Dec. 11. The chamber passed the measure Sept 22 on a bipartisan 359-57 vote.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Sept. 23 indicated he was optimistic the Republican-controlled Senate would clear the measure before the end of the month, when government funding and the surface transportation law expire.

House and Senate leaders earlier agreed that very few policy changes would be attached to both the extension and the continuing resolution (CR) needed to avoid a government shutdown.

The Democrats’ surface transportation programs extension provides a $13.6 billion transfer from the General Fund to maintain solvency of the Highway Trust Fund. It maintains surface transportation programs at current levels of $47.1 billion for highway programs and $12.3 billion for transit programs. The CR also provides a transfer of $14 billion to the Airport and Airway Trust Fund.

While an extension provides some market stability, the flat funding means the erosion of purchasing power due to inflation.

Any COVID-19-related measures, including aid to state departments of transportation (DOTs), would be handled separately by Congress, if at all. The Senate is now embroiled in a battle over whether, or when, to fill a U.S. Supreme Court vacancy.

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.