Senate bill would extend SAFETEA-LU through 2010

It looks like it may be 2011 before any new federal highway transportation funding legislation passes. According to the Journal of Commerce Online, the Senate is proposing to extend the current SAFETEA-LU legislation through the end of this year.

While it’s disappointing that we probably won’t see a new funding program for another year, this would at least provide some assurance that projects in the pipeline this year will not be halted due to a lack of a designated funding source. 

 According to the Journal‘s report, the government has apparently noticed the 24.7% unemployment rate for the construction industry (as of January 2010), as investment in transportation infrastructure will be a major component of a pending jobs bill, according to AASHTO’s John Horsley. 

Senators are expected within the next two weeks to introduce legislation to sustain surface transportation spending, John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highways and Transportation Officials, said Tuesday.

Senators Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and James Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman and ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, told industry representatives that they will offer two measures, Horsley said. One will extend the existing transportation program known as SAFETEA-LU through the end of calendar 2010. The second will transfer $20 billion from general revenue to the Highway Trust Fund to keep it solvent.

Horsley said the two measures will likely appear as part of a larger tax package that the Senate will consider. The Senate is also working on a jobs program “in which transportation investment is expected to be a major component.”

Horsley said he didn’t know how much of the jobs package would go to surface transportation, but he hoped that it would be close to the $27.5 billion for highway and $8.4 billion for transit that the House approved in December.

AASHTO released a report on the first anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Horsley said that $23.8 billion of the $26 billion for highway projects had been obligated by states for construction projects. States also obligated $7.2 billion of the $8.4 billion that the recovery act dedicated to transit. All told, states launched 11,000 projects employing 280,000 people. Thirty percent of the projects came in under engineers’ estimates.

“We’re delivering value,” Horsley said. “Thousands of projects have been delivered. The states’ success in delivering on the Recovery Act highway and transit dollars is quite remarkable.”

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