Federal Update
Where we’re at with the highway bill

By David Tanner, associate editor

The nation’s transportation plan as authorized by Congress expires Sept. 30 and a new one is currently in the works. The finished law will be the compromised product of several versions. At press time, OOIDA was poring over different drafts of what the future highway bill could look like.

That particular piece of legislation is important to truckers because it governs policy and sets funding levels for transportation over a period of years.

In late April, the White House issued its draft to Congress. It calls for four years of funding and policy at a cost of $302 billion.

Notably, and something truckers oppose, the White House version calls for loosening up a long-standing ban on interstate tolling by allowing states to call more of the shots. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx later clarified that any tolling proposal offered by a state would still require federal approval.

Next up to the plate, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee offered a proposal in mid-May that would stretch approximately $300 billion for transportation over a six-year period.

The Senate version promises to leave the current restrictions on interstate tolling in place.

Both versions of the bill require new funding to shore up the Highway Trust Fund over the long term, something that lawmakers will continue debating throughout the summer.

Additionally, both bills call for building on the reforms and policies forged in the 2012 version of the highway bill known as MAP-21, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century. MAP-21 is scheduled to expire Sept. 30.

It’s important to note that any “new” highway bill to replace MAP-21 is simply a draft at this point – a proposal.

At press time, the House of Representatives had yet to offer its version, which could differ again from those offered by the Senate and White House. Before it’s all said and done, Congress will have to forge final language before sending a finished highway bill to the president to be signed into law.

In general terms, OOIDA supports a long-term highway bill and strongly opposes the concept of converting interstate highways into toll roads.

There’s much more to the discussion. Please see Washington Insider on Page 34 for the scoop on what it will take to get a highway bill in place that truckers can support. LL