Chaos in Washington: Another federal extension looming

September 13, 2011

While many had hoped that Congress would enact a long-term federal transportation bill, it appears that the decision will be to kick the can down the road for yet another six months.

According to several news reports, the U.S. House and Senate this week are expected to act on legislation brokered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to extend the federal surface transportation programs for six months.  The House is scheduled to consider the measure as early as today.

The legislation would extend current levels of funding for Pennsylvania through the end of March 2012.  Most importantly, the deal is expected to extend the federal gas tax for the same six-month period. 

While this may be welcomed news for some, it creates an extremely tenuous situation for PennDOT and the entire highway design and construction industry.  While the short-term deal is making its way through Congress, the House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee last week approved an FY 2012 funding bill that cut highway investment by $14 billion, sending mixed signals as to what to expect after March 2012.

“Another band-aid, in the form of a six-month extension, simply underscores the need to address and stabilize Pennsylvania’s transportation program with a long-term, comprehensive funding package, as outlined in the recent Transportation Funding Advisory Commission Report,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner.  “We simply cannot wait for Congress to act and send additional funds our way.  Doing so would compromise the safety and welfare of the Pennsylvania traveling public.”

The current highway extension expires September 30.  As such, House and Senate leaders are working to have the package of extensions approved in both chambers by the end of this week.  This funding bill originally expired in September 2009, meaning that the federal government has left the country without a multi-year funding mechanism for 24 months.

PHIA will continue to provide updates as they become available.

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