November 5, 2014 2:00 PM, EST

Rep. DeFazio to Pursue Top Democrat Spot on House Transportation Panel

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News

Oregon Democrat Peter DeFazio will look to take over as the ranking member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the next Congress, a senior House aide told Transport Topics.

DeFazio, the ranking Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, would replace Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) to become the highest-ranking Democrat on the transportation panel.

On Nov. 4, DeFazio easily defeated Republican challenger Art Robinson to secure the Beaver State’s 4th Congressional District. Rahall, a 19-term representative from the Mountain State who was significant in advancing transportation bills, was defeated by Republican state Sen. Evan Jenkins in West Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District.

Funding challenges, and crafting a long-term transportation outlook and policy provisions are expected to consume much of the panel's focus next year.

As the top Democrat on transportation policy issues, DeFazio would be positioned to play a key role in 2015 on the reauthorization of a 2012 surface transportation law that expires in the spring.

The account to pay for large-scale transportation projects, the Highway Trust Fund, is projected to run low on funds around that time.