By Lauren Schapker, vice president of legislative affairs, ARTBA
President Donald J. Trump Oct. 1 signed into law a one-year extension of federal highway, bridge, and public transportation programs in a package that also funds the entire federal government through Dec. 11.
A surface transportation program interim measure is necessary to keep Highway Trust Fund dollars flowing to the states because Congress failed to complete a multi-year reauthorization bill before the Sept. 30 deadline. That means the robust, long-term bills advanced this year in the House and Senate will be set-aside, and the two chambers will have to start the process again when the new Congress convenes in January.
The extension authorizes for FY 2021 current levels of $47.1 billion for highway programs and $12.3 billion for transit programs. The measure also includes a $13.6 billion one-time transfer to the Highway Trust Fund that is needed to support these proposed investments.
“While we had hoped to reach an agreement between the House and the Senate this year on a modern, multi-year surface transportation bill that moves our country forward, the single most important factor right now is providing certainty to states and local governments that are under the strain of both the pandemic and the resulting economic downturn,” House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said before Trump signed the extension.
Upon passage of the extension, Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said in a press release, “the extension will give Congress more time to finish a long-term, bipartisan highway bill to rebuild our roads and bridges. In the Senate EPW Committee, we unanimously passed legislation that will fix our roads, grow our economy, protect the environment, and cut Washington red tape. That bill is ready to go. Congress should use America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act as a model as we work towards passing a long-term highway infrastructure bill.”
Congress will resume work to finalize FY 2021 spending following the elections and is currently deliberating on a COVID-19 relief package—both of which provide opportunities for ARTBA and our allies to seek increased transportation investment.