Playing beat the clock, the House of Representatives today approved by voice vote a three-week extension of transportation funding. The Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2015 (H.R. 3819) will fund and extend the authorization for federal highway and transit programs through November 20.
With current funding set to expire in just two days, on Oct. 29, it is expected that the Senate will pass a similar patch sometime this week.
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, remarked in an Oct. 27 statement that passage of “today’s Surface Transportation Extension Act will ensure that states can continue to fund transportation projects while Congress continues to make progress on the multi-year bill.”
The highway extension act includes a provision that extends the deadline for equipping some 70,000 miles of rail track with Positive Train Control automatic-braking technology from the end of this year until 2018.
“H.R. 3819 also recognizes that failing to extend the Positive Train Control deadline now will have devastating economic impacts,” Shuster stated. “Not only will railroads stop shipping important chemicals critical to manufacturing, agriculture, clean drinking water, and other industrial activities, but passenger and commuter rail transportation will virtually screech to a halt.”
Inclusion of the PCT measure did not derail the highway-funding patch, as some Capitol Hill observers had suggested. However, the rail-safety issue is certain to remain a political football until the House and Senate conference on the separate long-term highway bills that each chamber will by then have passed.