House passes transportation funding patch

Updated May 21, 2015

Congress

The U.S. House of Representatives has approved HR 2353, the Highway Transportation Funding Act of 2015 in a 387-35 vote.

The bill, introduced by Congressmen Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania), Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman, and Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), House Ways and Means Committee chairman, extends funding for the Highway Trust Fund until July 31 through a series of “reconciliation of funds” measures amending the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014.

The bill now goes on to the Senate. Expectations are for passage prior to both chambers leaving May 21 for the Memorial Day holiday.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said this isn’t the best outcome, preferring that the previously presented Grow America Act be approved.

“What the country needs now is decisive action,” he said. “The (Obama) Administration’s expectation is that Congress will use these two months to make meaningful and demonstrable progress towards a multi-year authorization bill that makes significant and long-term investments in infrastructure,” Foxx continued.

“I know you’ve heard this and read this before. But I am optimistic and hopeful that this time is different, and that the current streak will end at 33. My message to Congress is simple: Let’s use these months productively. Let’s work together to make it count for the American people in 2015.”

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) President Dennis Slater applauded the House vote, saying equipment manufactures supported the patch “because it keeps the chronic problems plaguing the Highway Trust Fund at front of mind for lawmakers for the next 10 weeks.”

He added, “We heard a lot from lawmakers today about their support for a long-term highway bill. But actions speak louder than words. If Congress wants to demonstrate its commitment to a sustainable solution for the Highway Trust Fund, the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee could start by hosting hearings on the topic of highway financing. Even better would be for leaders in Congress and the Obama administration to produce new, innovative proposals on how they would fund a long-term bill,” Slater continued.

“AEM members continue to support raising the gas tax because it is the most straightforward way to make the Highway Trust Fund solvent while upholding the user fee principle. If members of Congress believe the gas tax is not politically viable, then it is incumbent upon them to produce an alternative. We look forward to seeing those proposals soon.”

A summary of the bill is included below. The full bill can be read here:

Highway Transportation Funding Act of 2015

Directs the Secretary of Transportation to reduce the amount apportioned for a surface transportation program, project, or activity for FY2015 by amounts apportioned or allocated under the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014 for the period from October 1, 2014, through May 31, 2015.

Amends the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014 to continue from October 1, 2014, through July 31, 2015, and authorizes appropriations through that period for, specified federal-aid highway programs under:

  • the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21),
  • the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) Technical Corrections Act of 2008,
  • SAFETEA-LU,
  • the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21),
  • the National Highway System Designation Act of 1995,
  • the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), and
  • other specified law.

Subjects funding for such programs generally to the same manner of distribution, administration, limitation, and availability for obligation, but at a specified pro rata of the total amount, as funds authorized for appropriation out of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) for such programs and activities for FY2014.

Amends the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) to authorize appropriations out of the general fund of the Treasury for the Tribal High Priority Projects program for the same period.

Prescribes an obligation ceiling of $33,528,284,932 for federal-aid highway and highway safety construction programs for the same period.

Authorizes appropriations from the HTF (other than the Mass Transit Account) for administrative expenses of the federal-aid highway program for the same period.

Extends for the same period the authorization of appropriations for National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) safety programs, including:

  • highway safety research and development,
  • national priority safety programs,
  • the National Driver Register,
  • the High Visibility Enforcement Program, and
  • NHTSA administrative expenses.

Amends SAFETEA-LU to extend for the same period high-visibility traffic safety law enforcement campaigns under the High Visibility Enforcement Program.

Sets aside a specified amount of the total apportionment to states for highway safety programs for a cooperative program to research and evaluate priority highway safety countermeasures for the same period.

Extends for the same period the authorization of appropriations for Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) programs, including:

  • motor carrier safety grants,
  • FMCSA administrative expenses,
  • commercial driver’s license program improvement grants,
  • border enforcement grants,
  • performance and registration information system management grants,
  • commercial vehicle information systems and networks deployment grants,
  • safety data improvement grants,
  • a set-aside for high priority activities that improve commercial motor vehicle safety and compliance with commercial motor vehicle safety regulations,
  • a set-aside for new entrant motor carrier audit grants,
  • FMCSA outreach and education, and
  • the commercial motor vehicle operators grant program.

Amends the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act to continue, for the same period, the authorized distribution of funds for coastal wetlands, recreational boating safety, projects under the Clean Vessel Act of 19921, boating infrastructure projects, and the National Outreach and Communications Program.

Extends for the same period the apportionment of nonurbanized (rural) area formula grants for competitive grants and formula grants for public transportation on Indian reservations.

Extends the apportionment of urbanized area formula grants for passenger ferry projects for the same period.

Extends for the same period the authorization of appropriations from the HTF Mass Transit Account for:

  • formula grants for public transportation, including allocations for specified projects;
  • research, development demonstration, and deployment projects;
  • the transit cooperative research program;
  • technical assistance and standards development grants;
  • human resources and training grants;
  • capital investment grants; and
  • administrative expenses.

Allocates, for the same period, certain amounts to states and territories for formula bus and bus facilities grants.

Authorizes appropriations for the same period for hazardous materials (hazmat) transportation safety projects.

Authorizes the Secretary to make certain expenditures, including an amount for hazmat training grants, from the Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness Fund for the same period.

Amends the Internal Revenue Code to extend through July 31, 2015, the authority for expenditures from: (1) the HTF Highway and Mass Transit Accounts, (2) the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, and (3) the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund.