Oberstar: let’s not drag SAFETEA-LU on forever

| 9/23/2009

The President Bush era for transportation policy and funding is not over yet, and is likely to last at least through the end of President Obama’s first year in office.

Rep. James Oberstar, D-MN, and other transportation leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives have unveiled their proposal seeking to extend provisions of the current program known as SAFETEA-LU until Dec. 31 of this year.

The Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act is scheduled to sunset on Sept. 30. The $286 billion program, which has been the law since 2005, has encouraged things like tolling and private investment in infrastructure.

Earlier this summer, Oberstar and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that he chairs rolled out their proposed replacement for SAFETEA-LU. However, without the Senate and White House on board, the bill cannot progress – hence the need for extensions.

With the Senate immersed in healthcare and climate debates, senators favor an 18-month extension, which would leapfrog the November 2010 midterm elections into 2011.

Oberstar and his supporters continue to apply pressure to keep the extension as short as possible according to the bill language unveiled Wednesday, Sept. 23.

Oberstar’s extension bill was expected to reach the House floor late Wednesday, where it requires a two-thirds majority to pass under suspension of normal House rules. If it does not pass with two-thirds, Oberstar could try again under regular rules prior to Sept. 30.

For an extension to become law, the House and Senate must agree to the terms before it goes to the president’s desk.

– By David Tanner, staff writer