October 22, 2015
The committee announce it had unanimously approved the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015 Thursday afternoon after it was introduced for markup earlier in the morning. But with an ever approaching Oct. 29 deadline for the expiration of the Highway Trust Fund, The Hill reported that Congress may yet again have to pass a short-term patch before the House can vote on the STRR Act.
The bill, which was introduced Oct. 16, would send $261 billion to highways, $55 billon to transit programs and another $9 billion on safety programs.
“The Committee’s overwhelming approval of the STRR Act today is a positive step forward for our Nation’s transportation system and our economy,” Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania) said. “I look forward to House action on the bill and going to conference with the Senate as soon as possible.”
The Highway Trust Fund was extended with a short-term patch in July for the 34th time since 2008. And it’s been 10 years since Congress passed a long-term transportation bill. Congress has been unable to pass any transportation bill that lasts more than two years since 2005, but lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been calling for something more long-term like the Senate’s six-year DRIVE Act.
The House failed to make a move on the DRIVE Act because it only had funding for three years despite making commitments for six years of funding. The STRR Act still only provides funding for three years, but it requires Congress pass new legislation in order to get the additional funding.
The STRR Act passed with the support of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association and the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, with the former releasing an analysis of the bill earlier this week.
“The combination of Senate approval of the DRIVE Act and the release of a House reauthorization plan makes clear the commitment in both chambers to completing a multi-year surface transportation bill in 2015,” the ARTBA analysis said.
NSSGA president and CEO Michael Johnson also praised the bill said it was a step in the right direction from Congress.
“As the industry that supplies the essential building materials for our nation’s roads and highways, we are glad to see that our country is closer to having a long-term investment in our infrastructure,” Johnson said. “While the current funding levels are not ideal in this draft, we welcome any bill that allows our member companies to continue partnering with federal, state and local companies to improve roads, bridges and infrastructure.”
Any investment in our nation’s surface transportation network is a win for all Americans and it is imperative to continued economic growth, maintaining global competitiveness, cleaner air and safer roads.”.