Senators say transportation extension is a ‘no brainer’

| 9/8/2011

Extending federal transportation programs for the short term is a “no brainer,” U.S. senators said Thursday, Sept. 8, adding that it’s even more important to get a longer-term extension passed that includes reforms and a funding mechanism.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously passed a four-month extension to transportation programs on Thursday. The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

“It's a no-brainer,” the committee’s ranking Republican, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, said in a statement.

EPW Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-CA, said Senate action on the short-term extension is expected quickly. The extension would last through Jan. 30, 2012. It’s the eighth time transportation has been extended temporarily since the law known as SAFETEA-LU expired in September 2009.

“What matters is passing a two-year bill,” said Inhofe, adding that EPW and other committees with jurisdiction over transportation programs could use the four months to move forward on a two-year authorization bill.”

House lawmakers have yet to take up a temporary stop-gap measure. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica, R-FL, has proposed a six-year bill to cover the long term.

Mica said last week that a short-term extension will be necessary to buy time to work on the six-year plan.

Federal and state programs continue to operate under the terms of SAFETEA-LU, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (Public Law 109-59), which took effect in 2005 but expired Sept. 30, 2009.

Annual spending bills, including those for transportation, are also a big topic on Capitol Hill this week. A bill being marked up Thursday by a House Appropriations subcommittee included a provision to cut highway spending to $27.7 billion in 2012, which is down $14.1 billion from what was approved for 2011.