The U.S. Senate passed a bill Wednesday, March 17, that is crucial to shoring up the Highway Trust Fund through the end of the year. The legislation touted as the jobs bill, HR2847, now goes to President Obama’s desk for his expected signature.
Once it’s signed, the Highway Trust Fund stands to receive $15 billion from the Treasury to extend federal and state transportation programs through Dec. 31.
Highway user groups commended lawmakers’ passage of the bill, but are urging Congress to turn its attention to passing a long-term highway authorization bill, which will last through 2016.
“The vast majority of the public understands that a commitment to congestion relief and safety investments on our roads and bridges will help every part of America become stronger,” said Greg Cohen, president and CEO of the American Highway Users Alliance. OOIDA has a seat on the Highway Users’ board of directors.
The Highway Users urged Congress to pass two significant transportation bills this year – a bill filed in the House to create transportation jobs and, ultimately, a long-term highway authorization bill.
“This (authorization) bill should provide stable guaranteed funding for our highways from 2011 to 2016,” Cohen said. “But Congress also needs to prepare the American people to pay for this bill ‘as-we-go’ with adequate highway user fees on gasoline and diesel.”
The last highway authorization bill, SAFETEA-LU, became law in 2005 and expired in September 2009.
“Without a new six-year bill, a weak and unstable highway program will be funded only in drips and drabs – leaving thousands of projects stuck on drawing boards and motorists stuck in congestion,” Cohen said.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit issued a blueprint for the next highway bill back in summer of 2009, but the Senate and White House were reluctant to move on a bill that would require $400 billion to $500 billion to fund.
– By David Tanner, associate editor