Quick turnaround hoped for on highway bill extension

| 4/20/2004

After two weeks of hearing from hometown voters, Congress returns to work April 20 with only 10 days remaining before the expiration of current federal highway and transit programs on April 30.

The House passed its $275 billion bill (HR 3550) April 1, and the $318 billion Senate bill was adopted in February (S 1072). Neither body has appointed conferees, although it is assumed that Sen. James Inhofe, R-OK, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, will be the conference chairman.

In addition to lining up the conferees, the House and Senate also must enact a third short-term extension of the federal highway and transit programs as authorized under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century. The most recent extension will expire on April 30, just as states begin their busiest construction season.

"It is essential that Congress act to keep the programs operating on an interim basis, while they complete work on a comprehensive reauthorization bill. As our summer work season comes into full swing, we urge them to act quickly on both fronts," John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highways and Transportation Officials, said.

Meanwhile, staff members are hopeful that an agreement can be reached – and approved – before the summer Congressional recess, according to press reports.