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3/19/2012 8:00:00 AM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

Editorial: Halfway Home?

This Editorial appears in the March 19 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Hallelujah, a new highway bill has actually managed to make it successfully through one of the houses of Congress.

Thanks to the Senate — and some unlikely allies for trucking in that august body — for having the strength of will and commitment to persevere and pass legislation that would at least maintain the national’s road-building program.

The Senate, in a bipartisan 72-22 vote, approved a $109 billion surface transportation bill.

While the Senate bill is short term (two years) and far from perfect, it still represents a major step forward in the drive to pass a new highway bill, the first since 2005. Since that time, Congress has passed eight short-term extensions because of its inability to approve a comprehensive bill.

Unfortunately, it is unclear (to say the least) what will happen over on the House side, where chaos reigns.

Republicans in the House are in total disarray, after having rejected the long-term highway bill proposed by Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), the chairman of the Transportation Committee.

After the GOP rank-and-file objected to Mica’s plan, party leaders turned the task over to another congressman, who was also unable to find a consensus on how to proceed.

So as of now — with the House scheduled to return from a recess on March 19 — Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he’s not sure how the chamber will proceed.

Unfortunately, there is a deadline looming that could have serious consequences if Congress doesn’t act quickly.

The latest short-term highway bill extension expires on March 31, at which time the federal government’s authority to pay for highway construction will expire, along with its authority to collect the fuel taxes that feed the Highway Trust Fund and pay for road construction.

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