Clock ticks on highway funding

Clock ticks on highway funding
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Congress has just 10 days to pass an extension of federal highway funding to prevent an interruption in the nation's transportation spending.

The current transportation funding measure is set to expire on Oct. 29, and lawmakers are scrambling again to craft a temporary extension before the deadline hits. 

There’s little doubt that some sort of highway funding extension will materialize before the Oct. 29 deadline. The Senate has passed a multiyear highway bill in the summer and the House has scheduled a long awaited marked up a six-year highway bill of its own for Oct. 22. 

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There will likely not be enough time for the measure to work its way through the House before the deadline, however, meaning transportation advocates will have to settle for another extension. 

They are not happy about it, although they are glad Congress is at least moving toward passing a longer transportation funding measure now. 

"This is unacceptable: Congress is ready to kick the can down the road on infrastructure investment for the 35th time," Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul said in an email to supporters this month. 

"All signs point to another short-term extension for the highway bill before time runs out on Oct. 29," he continued. "The United States is long overdue for a long-term, fully funded transportation bill. We currently rank 16th in the world for transportation infrastructure. One in five of our roads need major repair. One in five bridges is structurally unsound." 

It has been ten years since Congress passed a highway bill that last longer than two years, much to the chagrin of transportation supporters who argue that states need longer to plan large infrastructure projects. 

The transportation funding measure that is scheduled to expire next Thursday is a third extension of a 2012 infrastructure bill that was scheduled to expire in 2014. 

Congress included enough money in a July extension of the measure that is now set to expire on Thursday to cover transportation expenses through the end of the year, which should make it easier for lawmakers to craft a quick patch this month. 

Supporters of the long-term Senate highway bill said they optimistic that the chambers will be able to work out their differences now that the House has rolled out a measure of its own. 

“We are very pleased that the House is moving forward with a long-term, bipartisan bill," Sens. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeA third of Congress hasn’t held a town hall — it’s time to take action Anonymous affiliate publishes claimed list of GOP private contact info Wasting America’s nuclear opportunity MORE (R-Okla.) and Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerTrump riles Dems with pick for powerful EPA job Pelosi's chief of staff stepping down Time is now to address infrastructure needs MORE (D-Calif). said in a statement. "We look forward to getting to conference and resolving the differences in the two bills.” 

The Department of Transportation has warned that it will have to cut off payments to states and local governments for infrastructure projects in November if Congress does not reach an agreement on a highway bill extension this month.