GOP chairman hitting the road to push for highway bill

GOP chairman hitting the road to push for highway bill
© Anne Wernikoff

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) is leading a “roadshow” in his home state this week to highlight a looming deadline for extending the nation’s infrastructure spending that will be facing Congress when it returns from recess. 

Shuster is scheduled to visit construction sites in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday with members of the Transportation panel and fellow lawmakers from his state. 

The GOP Chairman is also traveling with state transportation secretaries from Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. 

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Officials with the House Transportation Committee said the trip is intended to highlight “the federal-state partnership in infrastructure and the Nation’s competitiveness, and the importance of Congress passing a long-term surface transportation bill.” 

“The Roadshow and similar events outside of Washington, DC will continue to help the Committee explore the country’s infrastructure needs, and gather perspectives from states, local officials, businesses, and job creators about how to make federal transportation programs work more effectively, improve the flow of commerce across the country, and keep America globally competitive,” the committee said in announcement of Shuster’s trip.  

“Transportation secretaries from other states are joining Shuster and Committee Members to discuss efforts at the state level that are necessary or are already in place to improve transportation project delivery and maximize investments in roads, bridges, and other infrastructure,” the statement continued. 

The trip comes as lawmakers struggle to come up with a way to pay for a transportation funding extension that is scheduled to expire on May 31. 

Lawmakers in both parties have expressed a desire to pass a long-term transportation funding bill this year, but consensus on a way to pay for it has been elusive

The traditional source of transportation funding has been the 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax that was established in the 1930s. The tax has not been increased since 1993, even as cars have become more fuel-efficient in recent years. 

The federal government typically spends about $50 billion per year on transportation projects, but the gas tax only brings in $34 billion.

Lawmakers have turned to other areas of the federal budget to close the $16 billion gap, and Ryan and others have begun talking about passing another extension now to prevent a construction shutdown this summer. 

Shuster tweeted pictures of his visit to the Tide Bridge in Homer City, Pa. on Tuesday and argued the project showed the need for a long-term transportation bill. 

“Tide Bridge in #HomerCity for stop 2 of the #PARoadShow,” he wrote. “Another example of why we need to invest in infrastructure.”