Friday, March 30, 2012

House extends surface transport funding again

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Unable to craft its own long-term surface transportation bill, and equally unable to agree to a Senate version already passed by the upper house, the House of Representatives Thursday managed to approve yet another extension of SAFETEA-LU, this one for 90 days.

The House vote was 266 to 158. The Senate followed by approving the extension by unanimous consent.

The move allows federal motor fuels taxes to continue to be collected for use in the Highway Trust Fund thorugh June 30. President Obama is expected to sign the measure before the current extension expires March 31.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said the House will produce a revised version of its multiyear bill upon returning in two weeks from the district work period, when congressional reps are scheduled to visit their constituents.  Both political parties are keenly aware of the impact on projects and jobs a disruption of construction projects would have, particularly in a presidential election year.

Earlier attempts by House leaders to gut funding for almost all modes except highways met with significant resistance, with numerous Republicans defecting due to input from constituents supporting public transit (including rail transit), as well as pedestrian and bicycle interests.

House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Republican staff now say any five-year House bill succeeding SAFETEA-LU will attempt to preserve current funding provisions for the Mass Transit Account (MTA) of the Highway Trust Fund, used to fund programs administered by the Federal Transit Administration.

APTA logoIn an email message Thursday, the American Public Transportation Association urged APTA members "to contact their Members of Congress in the House and urge immediate action on a well-funded, multi-year, multi-modal authorization bill that can go to a conference committee with the Senate bill and be signed by the President within the next 90 days.

"APTA members should use the April district work period (March 30 through April 15) to communicate with their Members of Congress in the home districts about the need to pass a long-term bill," APTA said.