Tuesday, March 13, 2012

LaHood laments House discord on transport bill

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Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Monday he remains hopeful that the House of Representatives will succeed in passing a new federal surface transportation bill, while acknowledging their efforts so far had been in "disarray."

In a speech to the National League of Cities conference in Washington, D.C., LaHood was more optimistic that the Senate the would pass its version for transportation, a two-year, $109 billion bill, possibly as early as Tuesday.

Reports last week suggested that, spurred by Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), the House might review the Senate bill. But LaHood was less optimistic on that possibility, saying, "I don't even know what bill they're taking up ... I don't think they know."

The House bill envisioned $260 billion over five years, limited almost entirely to road projects only Objections arose from numerous representatives of other transport modes. Within the railroad industry, reaction came from the Association of American Railroads and the American Public Transportation Association, among others.

Constituents from suburban locations reliant on public transit also was a factor, resulting in an erosion of Republican support for the House bill, prompting the bill to be shelved. LaHood added his criticism of that approach Monday, saying "the House had a five-year bill, but it didn't fund transit. How can that be?"

A current extension of the previous surface transport bill, SAFETEA-LU, expires March 31, which could result in significant layoffs in the construction industry, and potential political fallout in an election year for both major parties.