Moving Me Down the Highway

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The late, great Jim Croce didn’t have the federal surface transportation bill in mind when he penned “I’ve Got a Name” in the 1973. You know the chorus, “Moving me down the highway, rolling me down the highway, moving ahead so life won’t pass me by.”

Well, the transportation reauthorization process is running into some road blocks. Slated to be passed by Congress by the end of September to replace the current SAFETEA-LU law, the American Public Transportation Association reports on its Web site that there’s group of legislators who want an 18-month extension despite strong opposition from James L. Oberstar (D-MN), the chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He has said that ground transportation in the United States is already suffering from decades of neglect and that a long-term fix to the nation’s aging roadways and the insolvent federal highway fund needs to be addressed by the time the current bill expires on Sept. 30.

APTA also opposes the extension. Says Bill Millar, the association’s executive director:

“APTA does not want to see multiple short-term extensions as was the case with the SAFETEA-LU process…,” said APTA President William Millar, noting that enactment of a long-term bill is essential for planning and forecasting.

For school transportation, the new transportation bill will address the future of the Federal Safe Routes to School Program, which in part develops better walking and biking routes. A current provision would allow 10 percent of the program’s infrastructure funds to be used to create safer school bus stops.

The industry will also be watching what the new bill says about previous FTA rulings that transit agencies must not illegally compete with private school bus operators unless they meet strict requirements. And then there’s the issue of the highway fund. School transportation is hoping to retain its federal fuel tax waiver while others aim to increase the tax to pump much needed funds back into coffers.