House signs off on two-month extension for surface transportation funding

On May 19th the United States House of Representatives passed legislation, entitled H.R. 2353, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015, by a 387-35 margin that extends current law and authorizes surface transportation programs through the end of July 2015.

“This legislation is a short-term patch necessary to get to the long-term surface transportation bill that Southwestern Pennsylvanians and the rest of the nation are calling for and need,” said Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, in a statement. “The American people want a long-term transportation bill, our businesses want it, and I am confident that there’s a strong will in Congress to get it done. This measure simply allows us to continue funding our surface programs through the end of July, while our work continues on a fiscally responsible solution to closing the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund and providing the long-term certainty required to make the investments that will strengthen and repair our roads and bridges.”

The most recent extension is set to expire on May 31 2015. The Senate has not voted on the same measure as of this time.

Shuster’s office said that no new spending or transfers of funding are necessary for the extension, since the Highway Trust Fund will remain solvent through the end of July 2015. Congressman Shuster “continues to work with Congressman Paul Ryan, Chairman of House Ways and Means, the committee with jurisdiction for funding surface transportation programs, on crafting a long-term bill.”

This vote follows Shuster and Ryan saying that this legislation was going to be issued very soon.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan issued a statement trumping legislation they will introduce to keep all highway and transit funding intact through the end of July 2015.They also said that the Highway Trust Fund has sufficient resources to fund its obligations through the end of July 2015, adding it was their preference to move an extension through the end of this year, but also indicated more time is needed to reach a bipartisan agreement on offsets. 

“This legislation will allow transportation spending to continue through July, while we work towards a next step to close the Trust Fund’s shortfall,” they noted. “Doing so will require our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to be constructive in working towards a solution.  Only then will we be able to produce a plan that gives states the certainty they need to build the roads, bridges, and other infrastructure our communities and economy need to thrive.”

Should the Senate follow suite, this will mark the 33rd time there’s been a short-term extension, or continuing resolution, for surface transportation funding, since the last multiyear authorization, SAFETEA-LU, expired at the end of September 2009.

While these extensions keep funding at the same levels, with the Highway Trust Fund essentially insolvent, current state of U.S. Transportation infrastructure unfortunately remains in a constant state of disrepair.

This was firmly highlighted by a recent DOT entitled “Beyond Traffic,” which cited various troubling findings regarding the current state of U.S. transportation infrastructure were revealed, including: drivers spend more than 40 hours per year stuck in traffic; 65% of the roads driven on are in less than good condition; 1 of 4 bridges they cross needs to be replaced; over the next 30 years. Americans will ask more out of the country’s transportation than ever before, while the country’s population will grow by 70 million, and freight traffic will increase by 45%.