By Mark Holan, editorial director, ARTBA

Prospects for Congress and the White House to act next year on a surface transportation reauthorization are robust for two reasons, according to ARTBA President Dave Bauer and two former congressional staffers.

First, because the surface transportation programs are operating on an extension through Sept. 30, 2021, “it’s guaranteed that the upcoming Congress will have to deal with this one way or another, even if another extension,” Bauer said during ARTBA’s Nov. 5 post-election webinar.

Second, infrastructure could top the list of “discrete areas” that a Joe Biden administration and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could work together, said Ray Beeman, a former House Ways & Means Committee staffer and now principal and co-leader at Washington Council Ernst & Young.

Republicans in the Senate and the House will not be in a hurry to cooperate with the apparent new Democratic administration, Beeman noted, but “Biden could force McConnell’s hand with reasonable, mainstream proposals.”

Pat Bousliman, government affairs consultant with Subject Matter and a former Senate Finance Committee staffer, agreed that while infrastructure is an opening for common ground in 2021, Congress is still going to need to find a way to pay for any reauthorization bill or infrastructure package. As was the case in 2015 with the current highway and transit law, Congress “might have to patch together things that have nothing to do with transportation,” he said.

ARTBA supports all highway user fee revenue proposals that could fund needed investment increases, Bauer said. What’s more important is the outcome of a new reauthorization.

“The country desperately needs action, something that is more than a bailout,” he said. “We need something that increases investment and growth-oriented action.”