On October 27 and 28, respectively, the U.S. House and Senate both passed three-week extension of the current Highway Transportation Fund authorization, giving themselves until November 20 to iron out the differences in their respective versions of a three-year, comprehensive bill and send a final bill to President Obama for his signature before the end of November.
Where Things Stand Now
On October 22, by a unanimous vote, the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved multi-year transportation legislation, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015 (STRR Act; H.R. 3763). The legislation is now awaiting a full House vote, which we anticipate will happen by early the first week of November. Similar to the Senate bill passed earlier this summer, the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy Act (DRIVE Act; S. 1647), the House bill provides three years of funding, with the possibility of extending for another three years if Congress can find additional funding.
The House bill is not an ideal solution because it does not meaningfully increase the federal investment in public transportation, and it does not give public transit equal priority with other forms of transportation. Nonetheless, this recent House action represents a key step forward, as the House and Senate can now work to iron out the differences between the two bills and pass a comprehensive transportation bill this year.
Funding for the long-term bills remains a sticking point that will have to be hammered out during negotiations between the House and Senate.
What We’ll Be Looking for in Final Negotiations
As the legislation moves to final negotiations, Voices for Public Transit will be calling on Members of Congress to ensure two key things happen:
- Public transportation is funded at the highest possible levels (at least as high as outlined in the Senate bill).
- Public transportation is treated equally with other forms of transportation when it comes to how much the federal government will contribute to local infrastructure projects.
We know it’s been a long road so far, but we are incredibly hopeful that all the effort you’ve put in over the past several months will be worth it as Congress is closer than ever before to passing comprehensive transportation legislation. After all, we’ve reached this point—perhaps the last mile of a very long journey—thanks to all of the hard work of the Voices for Public Transit community. We’ll keep you posted about progress on Capitol Hill. Please keep raising your voices to push long-term legislation over the finish line.