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Hopeful Signs, But Tough Path for Highway-Transit Bill

Hopeful Signs, But Tough Path for Highway-Transit Bill

Engineering New-Record
March 4, 2020
Tom Ichniowski

With seven months to go before the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation, or FAST, Act expires, there have been glimmerings of progress on a long-term successor for that $305-billion highway-transit authorization. But lawmakers will be hard-pressed to pass a final new measure by the Sept. 30 deadline, partly because the legislative session will be shortened by the run-up to the Nov. 3 elections.

State and industry officials are pressing for a new multiyear highway-transit bill, but given the tight window, a short-term extension remains a real possibility.

In the House, one positive sign came from Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), when he told reporters on Feb. 26 he is aiming to have a five-year surface-transportation bill written in March and hold a vote of his panel on the measure in April. DeFazio’s comments came after he addressed the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) winter meeting. The bill is expected to have $329 billion for highways.

The House isn’t as far along as the Senate, where the Environment and Public Works Committee last July 30 unanimously cleared a five-year, $287-billion highway authorization bill. It is poised to be the highway title of a larger package.

Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told AASHTO meeting attendees that he is “pushing” for the Senate to take up that measure on the floor. Barrasso favors a long-term bill over an extension. He recalled that stopgaps before the FAST Act was passed led to states’ delaying and considering cancelling more than $1 billion in projects... FULL ARTICLE

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