House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reached an agreement to extend the authorization of transit and highway programs at current funding levels through March 31, 2012.
The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) reported that the bill provides $24.78 billion in contract authority from the Highway Trust Fund, of which $4.18 billion is for Federal Transit Administration (FTA) formula and bus programs. The Capital Investment Grant program (New Starts/Small Starts) is funded at $800 million. Although the bill extends contract authority at current levels, the final amount spent will be determined within the appropriations process.
Last week, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) approved the FY 2012 THUD Appropriations bill providing drastically reduced spending levels for Highway Trust Fund/Mass Transit Account programs.
Although the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee unanimously approved a four-month extension to SAFETEA-LU last Thursday, agreement between House and Senate leaders for the six-month surface and four-month aviation extension was reached and announced on Friday. Chairman Barbara Boxer announced her support for the six-month extension, while also expressing concern about the bill’s $3.1 billion reduction in highway funding, the effect of a rescission included in the FY 2011 appropriations law.
Meanwhile, the House approved the extension by a voice vote. If passed out of Congress, it will be the eighth extension of SAFETEA-LU, which originally expired Sept. 30, 2005.
APTA said the bill also extends Highway Trust Fund expenditure authority and federal motor fuels taxes for the same length of time. The bill is considered “clean” and does not make program or policy changes. It must be signed into law before Sept. 16 because it is tied to the Federal Aviation Administration extension.
The National School Transportation Association told members last week that there could be significant reductions from last year’s spending levels for federal-aid highways and transit programs. The federal aid highway program is proposed to be funded at $27 billion from this year’s $41 billion, while transit would be funded at $7 billion from this year’s $10 billion.
APTA added that the Senate is expected to take up the bill under expedited procedures in order to meet the deadline. However, Senate rules do provide the opportunity for individual senators to slow consideration and at press time there remained some question as to whether Majority Leader Reid would be able to meet the impending Friday deadline for FAA programs due to objections over transportation enhancement spending.
NSTA had previously said that it was likely a continuing resolution (CR) would need to be enacted to extend all government programs well into the fall.
“It is also possible the surface transportation extension could become part of a bigger CR vehicle,” NSTA wrote to its members.