Thursday, July 23, 2009

What to do with SAFETEA-LU: Divergent Paths

SAFETEA-LU, the current authorization for federal transit and highway programs, is set to expire Sept. 30, 2009.

In the Senate, the key committees all have cast their approval on a plan to simply extend SAFETEA-LU authorizations for 18-months, through March 31, 2011. The Senate Environment and Public Works committee okay'ed this approach on July 15; the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee approved it on July 21; the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committee approved an 18-month extension on July 23. This extension still needs approval by the Senate Finance Committee before presentation to the full Senate for a vote.

In the House, the Transportation and Infrastructure committee has been resolute in calling for reauthorizing SAFETEA-LU this year, without an extension. Congressman Jim Oberstar (D-MN), chair of this committee, introduced a "Surface Transportation Authorization Act" earlier this summer; most recently, the Highways and Transit subcommittee held a hearing on July 16 at which nearly all the witnesses spoke to what they said was a pressing need for a new authorization this fall, without delay or extension.

These are very different approaches, and the September 30 deadline is coming up quickly. Hard to say where this will lead.

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