House extends funding for highway programs through Dec. 31

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill September 23 extending funding for highway transportation programs through December 31, 2009. The House voted 335-85 to extend funding three months from the September 30, 2009, expiration of the bill.

The Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2009 authorized a $9.8 billion extension of funds from the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), which is funded primarily by federal motor fuel taxes. The act extends funding for three months or until a bill authorizing the program for a longer period of time is passed. The legislation was sent to the Senate on September 24 and is currently awaiting action.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed legislation this July extending programs for 18 months. The committee says the 18-month extension will authorize about $41 billion in 2010 and another $20.5 billion in 2011. The extension stems from the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), a bill signed into law by former President Bush in August 2005 authorizing $244.1 billion for highway, safety and public transportation projects.

According to committee chairman Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation, every $1 billion in federal funds invested in transportation and combined with matched state funding creates 34,779 jobs.

Sen. Boxer and the committee plan to introduce a transformational transportation bill with more stable funding, a bill she calls MAP-21, or “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century.”

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), the Associated Equipment Distributors (AED) and the American Rental Association (ARA) have teamed up to get Congress’ attention with the “Start Me Up! USA” campaign. The campaign, launched on September 29 in Las Vegas, aims to show Congress that something needs to be done quickly to start highway projects. AED says that the organization is pushing Congress to enact a multi-year bill to increase highway projects.