Future of Transportation Legislation Uncertain As Congress Returns

by Leslie Wollack

Transportation advocates continue to watch for hopeful signs that Congress can enact a long-term transportation authorization bill before the November elections, despite the ongoing difficulty of finding a consensus. When Congress returns from its two-week recess, it must take action before the current and ninth short-term extension expires on June 30.

The transportation bill funding federal highway, transit and bridge programs expired in 2009 and the Congressional Budget Office recently projected that funding for the program will run out next year at the current rate of spending. Extensions typically continue current spending levels.

With gas tax revenues falling far short of spending levels and no political support for raising the gas tax, Congress is left with trying to fund a long-term bill without the money to fund it. 

The federal gas tax has remained at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993, while state and local governments have been scrambling to find the revenues to fund transportation programs. 

There was some optimism after the Senate adopted a bipartisan, two-year bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century. But the House voted down an effort to consider the Senate's $109-billion measure and opted instead for a 90-day extension of the current program. 

NLC supports passage of a long-term transportation bill that would rebuild America's roads and bridges, modernize transit systems and create or save good-paying jobs.