US surface transportation law could be extended

By Jenny Lescohier22 September 2020

Construction industry stakeholders are appealing to US congressional leadership, urging passage of a one-year extension of the existing five-year surface transportation law, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, before it expires on 30 September.

Highway

US lawmakers consider one-year extension of FAST Act 

Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.), leaders of the US House of Representatives’ transportation policy panel, have reportedly expressed agreement on the merits the extension of the highway law, asserting it would buy congressional policymakers time to update its provisions.

The year-long extension was included in funding legislation meant to avert a partial shutdown of federal agencies, Transport Topics reports. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, led by Wyoming Republican John Barasso, gave a five-year, US$287-billion surface transportation bill unanimous backing last year, when meeting a 30 September reauthorisation deadline seemed realistic. 

DeFazio and Barrasso have pushed ahead with versions of the law’s reauthorisation, however obstacles such as the Covid-19 pandemic have stood in the way of those efforts.

“With this one-year extension in place, we can continue work on a long-term, transformational bill that significantly boosts investment in our surface transportation network and moves our transportation systems into the 21st century,” DeFazio was quoted.

Organisations such as the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) have sent a letter to Congress asking for the extension that would provide a continuation of funding to maintain and repair America’s roads.

“As our industry and our country continues to navigate the lasting effects of the pandemic, now more than ever, we need congressional leaders to rise to the occasion and help keep the wheels moving on critical infrastructure projects across the country,” Dennis Slater, president of AEM, says. “As states and local governments continue to see budget shortfalls due to Covid-19, ensuring that the much-needed repair and modernisation of our surface transportation system can continue will create American jobs and boost demand for construction equipment.

“This demand is vital to the longevity of the equipment manufacturing industry and our hardworking 2.8 million men and women. Extending the FAST Act… is the first step. We still need for members on both sides of the aisle to work together on a long-term, fully funded reauthorisation that will better prepare our roads, highways, bridges, and public transit systems to meet the demands of a globally competitive 21st century economy.”

The letter asks congressional leaders to pass a bill by 30 September that includes:

  • A turnkey, one-year extension of the current surface transportation law with increased investment levels;
  • Emergency federal funding for state departments of transportation and public transit agencies - $37 billion and $32 billion, respectively;
  • Provisions to ensure solvency of the Highway Trust Fund for the duration of the extension at a minimum.
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