The House of Representatives has passed its version of a highway bill— voting for it 363-64 in overwhelming bipartisan fashion. The legislation authorizes spending up to $325 billion on transportation projects over six years, including $261 billion on roads and bridges.
As originally presented to the House, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform (STRR) Act of 2015 (H.R. 3763) would have paid for only three years of funding. However, an amendment adopted at the last minute could provide another $40 billion of spending, according to published reports.
The vote came on the morning of Nov. 5 after three days of debate, during which over 100 amendments were considered.
The STRR Act was introduced in the House by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO), and Highways and Transit Subcommittee Ranking Member Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).
“Today the House voted to give our infrastructure and our economy a much needed shot in the arm,” Rep. Shuster said. “The STRR Act provides strong reforms and policies to help us improve America’s transportation system, and now we can get to work on resolving the differences with the Senate bill and carry a final measure over the goal line.”
“I am very pleased, that after ten years of short-term band-aids and extensions, the House finally passed a bipartisan, six-year transportation bill,” said Rep. DeFazio. “This legislation isn’t perfect. Unfortunately, it doesn’t provide the level of investment needed to repair or rebuild our aging 1950s-era system of roads, bridges, and public transit systems.”
Alluding to the bill’s funding mechanism, DeFazio stated that the STRAA Act “does include a critical provision that would allow for automatic adjustments and increased infrastructure investment if more money flows into the Highway Trust Fund than currently projected.
"If Congress does the right thing and comes up with more revenue to deposit into the Highway Trust Fund," he added, "this mechanism will invest those funds in our surface transportation infrastructure, without any additional action by Congress.
Differences between the House bill and the highway bill passed by the Senate back in July must be worked out in conference by the two chambers before a final bill can be sent for President Obama to sign.
Lawmakers have until Novermber 20 to complete work on the long-term bill or to slap on another patch, as that's when the current short-term funding extension expires.