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AASHTO Journal

Transportation Remains Major Issue as <br>Congress Returns to Washington Next Week
When Congress returns from its Easter recess next week, the fate of the surface transportation program is expected to be high on its agenda.

Transportation Weekly and Politico both reported this week that House leaders directed staff to prepare another 90-day extension of the current authorization through September. The House and Senate on March 30 approved HR 4281, a clean 90-day extension of the current surface transportation authorization, known as SAFETEA-LU, through June 30, 2012. It was the 9th extension of the current authorization.

If the House passes another extension, the Senate could choose to go directly to a House-Senate conference to work out a compromise between the House extension and the Senate's recently passed two-year transportation bill dubbed MAP-21, both Politico and Transportation Weekly reported.

MAP-21, which passed the Senate in March, would reauthorize federal surface transportation programs through Sept. 30, 2013, and raise $15 billion in revenue to pay for maintaining current funding levels plus inflation. But the measure is still waiting House consideration.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-CA, and Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee Chairman Tim Johnson, D-SD, sent a letter this week to House Speaker John Boehner, R-OH, urging him allow the House to take up and pass the Senate bill. The Boxer and Johnson letter cited a recent Standard & Poor's report that warned states could pay higher interest rates on bonds that fund transportation, or find it hard to get financing for transportation projects, without a long-term federal surface transportation authorization.

So far, House leaders have not announced their plans for moving ahead on transportation legislation, although Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica, R-FL, said last month he expected to again take up a five-year transportation bill once Congress passed the latest short-term extension (see March 23 AASHTO Journal story).

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