Long-term highway bill will be marked up this month

Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee said they will mark up a long-term highway bill June 24 and are working with other committees to prepare the safety and transit portions of the reauthorization measure.

Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) and ranking member Barbara Boxer (D-CA) made the announcement before the Memorial Day recess as the Senate, in a voice-vote, backed a two-month extension of the Highway Trust Fund to July 31.

With that short extension, they said, "Congress prevented many critical road, bridge and transit projects from coming to a grinding halt. But it's time we end this costly uncertainty with the Highway Trust Fund."

The short extension means lawmakers will soon face another deadline to decide how to fund federal highway and transit programs, and it also leaves state departments of transportation facing a summer construction season without a clear schedule for when federal dollars will be available to reimburse their project costs. Some states have already delayed hundreds of projects this year valued at well over $1 billion, and more projects could be put on hold until the federal funding uncertainty is removed.

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Director Bud Wright said the organization is disappointed and frustrated by the two-month extension. "Congress must find the political will to pass a long-term bill and put these short-term patches aside," he said.

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