A swift voice vote by the Senate on Oct. 28 to send President Obama legislation that would extend funding authority for highway programs through Nov. 20 marked the 35th time Congress has passed such short-term fixes.
(UPDATE, Oct. 29, 6:50 p.m. EDT: Obama has signed the bill.)
The bill would ensure the road-building Highway Trust Fund account continues to provide states with assistance with their infrastructure projects. Current funding authorization expires Oct. 29.
Prior to the vote, Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, the top Democrat on the transportation committee, criticized a provision in the bill that would push until 2018 the deadline for when railroads would have to implement positive train control technology, or PTC. Most railroads have stressed that they will not make a Dec. 31 deadline to implement the technology designed to automatically slow down or stop a train.
On Oct. 27, the House easily advanced the short-term highway funding fix. House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said the extension will give Congress a few more weeks to “make progress on the multiyear bill.”
Shuster and his Senate counterpart, James Inhofe (R-Okla.), have noted their intention to finalize a multiyear transportation reauthorization bill before the Thanksgiving break. The House is expected to take up a six-year highway bill next week. The Senate passed its version in July.
Association of American Railroads CEO Edward Hamberger praised the passage of the short-term patch.
“Members of the House and Senate are to be commended for taking the responsible action to extend the PTC deadline. This provides the certainty American industries and businesses need to serve the millions of Americans who rely on rail every day,” Hamberger said. “The extension means freight and passenger railroads can continue moving forward with the ongoing development, installation, real-world testing and validation of this complex technology.”