Congress punts again on transportation bill: Passes ninth extension
By Chrissy Mancini Nichols
Mar 29, 2012
This post first appeared at metroplanning.org
Though it seemed likely this week that Congress would finally approve a long-term transportation authorization, instead today, March 29, the House and Senate approved a ninth extension of SAFETEA-LU, the federal transportation law that expired in 2009. The extension will last 90 days.
Because the House takes a two-week break beginning tonight, the Senate had little choice but to go along with passage of the extension to avert a total shutdown of transportation construction programs. The current law – and the authorization to collect the federal motor fuel tax to fund it – was set to expire this Saturday, March 31.
Unable to muster enough votes to pass their version of a long-term transportation bill, H.R. 7, House leaders refused to allow a vote on H.R.14, identical to the two-year bill approved by the Senate with a solid bipartisan 74 votes. The Senate and some Republican House members (including Illinois Reps. Judy Biggert and Robert Dold, and Democrat Rep. Mike Quigley) had urged House leaders to take up a vote on H.R. 14, arguing a longer term bill allows states and the transportation sector certainty in long-term planning, critically important as we embark on the summer construction season.
The SAFETEA-LU extension will expire June 30, 2012. MPC will continue working with our Transportation for America-Illinois partners and legislative leaders to pass a federal bill that is strategic, reduces gridlock and the demand for costly transportation expenditures, makes existing transportation infrastructure more efficient, creates new financing tools, and demonstrates the value of innovative investments. MPC submitted a letter to U.S. Rep Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.), outlining proposed measures to enhance the performance and accountability of a proposed transportation bill. Most of MPC's proposed criteria and metrics were included in MAP-21, the Senate-approved bill.; only a few of these proposals could be found in H.R. 7, the House’s bill.