Timing for Federal Transportation
Warren Henry, vice president of Transportation, TMACOG
Following the November election, the timing for the extension of the surface transportation bill and the U.S. DOT Fiscal Year 2011 budget are very much in question. The following information is compiled from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC), and the Kiplinger Letter.
The first issue is the extension of SAFETEA-LU. This surface transportation bill has now been extended five times and is currently set to expire December 31, 2010. With the defeat of James Oberstar, leadership of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has gone to Florida Republican John Mica. Under his leadership, it is likely that another six-month extension of SAFETEA-LU will be approved when the new Congress convenes in January. Some senators have stated that the committee should start over and prepare a new transportation bill rather than modify the present draft. If this should happen, a new bill is not likely in 2011 and thus new legislation would not be considered until after the next presidential election. Proposals raised related to a new bill include not raising the gasoline tax, elimination of transportation enhancement-related programs, and removing environmental items related to carbon cap and trade.
Second, Congress has not passed any of the dozen appropriations bills for the fiscal year which began October 1, 2010 including funding for all U.S. DOT agencies. It is now expected that Congress will extend Fiscal Year 2010 funding into next year which would give the new Congress an opportunity to complete work on several spending measures. Some new members have called for rolling back federal spending for most programs to Fiscal Year 2008 levels and eliminating all earmarks. They also seek to rescind unspent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds that would include numerous high-speed and intercity passenger rail projects, plus dozens of highway, rail, transit, and port projects funded by TIGER grants. Also proposed by the new electorate wave are no future general fund bail outs of the Highway Trust Fund.
To follow federal legislation, www.usa.gov is one good place to start.