House Committee Introduces Highway-Transit Bill

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introduced a six-year, $325 billion reauthorization bill for our nation’s highway and transit programs. The bill provides $261 billion for highways and $55 billion for transit, and the rest being assigned to safety programs. The Committee is scheduled to begin the markup process on Thursday, October 22nd.

With an authorization deadline looming at the end of the month, Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR) wanted to get a bill introduced to begin the markup process.

Nevertheless, it is extremely unlikely they will have a final bill drafted, passed out of the House, and negotiated with the Senate in the next 10 days. We will likely see a number of extensions passed in the coming days to avoid havoc being wrought on our transportation network.

Funding Impasse

Legislators will have to overcome a major hurdle in figuring out how to pay for the bill. The gas tax has traditionally supplied the funding needed for the Highway Trust Fund. But since the gas tax has not been raised since 1993 – and with gas prices plummeting – the trust fund has been in trouble.

According to CQ’s Roll Call, “about 80 percent of public transit funding comes from an account in the Highway Trust Fund and about 20 percent comes from the general fund… Congress’s extension in July propped up the trust fund through the end of the year, but lawmakers must come up with a solution by 2016 or accounts will again approach a zero balance.”

Politically, the gridlock has been between legislators wanting more funding for public transit and those who want more for roads and highways. Republicans in particular have been working to limit federal funding for transit programs (which is easy for them since most represent largely rural districts).

Click here to read the TTD release on the Bill.