House Transportation Bill Remains Sidelined; Efforts to Shrink Timeframe Shelved

AASHTO Journal, 2 March 2012

House Republican leaders will not pursue an 18-month transportation reauthorization bill after rank-and-file members failed to support the idea, several transportation news sources reported Thursday.”Apparently our members don’t think too highly of it,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said at a press conference Thursday, Politico reported. “We ought to do this the right way. We’ve had five-year, six-year reauthorizations of the highway bill. I think it’s important for the states and for those who want to invest in this arena to have a broad horizon so they know where they’re going. And a five-year bill’s the best way to get there.”

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Florida, earlier this week told the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Washington Briefing that his committee-approved bill, HR 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, could still move forward but acknowledged House leaders are reviewing several options. (see related story and a Transportation TV video of Mica’s remarks)

The five-year transportation measure would invest $260 billion to maintain existing federal highway and transit program levels. Debate began last month on components of the legislation that would increase domestic oil and gas drilling to fund more transportation projects, but the transportation policy sections of the bill have not gone through the House Rules Committee yet, a step required before floor debate may commerce. (see Feb. 17 AASHTO Journal story)

A provision of HR 7 that would end mass transit’s dedicated piece of federal fuel taxes and separate account in the Highway Trust Fund has attracted opposition from many representatives. (see Feb. 24 AASHTO Journal) AASHTO, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and many other organizations have expressed their support for restoring the trust fund’s Mass Transit Account. Mica said these are among the provisions leadership is trying to iron out as it seeks the 218 votes necessary to gain House approval.

The Senate continues debating its own surface transportation reauthorization bill. (see related story)

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