GOP chairman 'confident' in long-term highway bill prospects

GOP chairman 'confident' in long-term highway bill prospects

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterEx-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm Anti-corruption group hits Congress for ignoring K Street, Capitol Hill 'revolving door' Republicans spend more than million at Trump properties MORE (R-Pa.) says he is "confident" Congress will pass a long-term highway bill after they approve a temporary patch to prevent a highway-funding shutdown  this week. 

Shuster introduced a measure (H.R. 3819) on Friday that would extend federal transportation spending — currently set to expire Oct. 29 — until Nov. 20 in an effort to prevent an interruption in the nation's transportation spending weeks before the busy holiday travel season begins in earnest. 

He said Monday afternoon that the temporary patch is just a stopgap to give Congress additional time to finish working on a multiyear highway bill. 

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“Last week, the Transportation Committee unanimously approved the bipartisan, multi-year Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015. We look forward to voting on that bill in the House soon and then going to conference with the Senate on their highway bill," Shuster said in a statement. 

"I am confident that we can resolve the differences between the House and Senate measures and producing a final product that’s good for our Nation’s infrastructure," he continued. "This extension will allow the highway bill process to continue moving forward without shutting down transportation programs and projects across the country." 

GOP leaders in the House worked on a six-year, $325 billion transportation funding bill that would put an end to a stretch of temporary highway extensions that has lasted for a decade. 

The multiyear highway bill was approved last Thursday by the chamber’s Transportation Committee, but lawmakers in the body said they need more time to finish work on the bill as the Oct. 29 infrastructure funding deadline quickly approaches. 

The measure does not include any new money, because lawmakers included enough road funding in three-month transportation bill that was approved in July to last until the end of the year in case they needed more time to finish work on a multiyear fix. The earlier patch is scheduled to expire Thursday, necessitating the new measure that is now being introduced in the House. 

Congress has not passed a transportation funding bill that last longer than two years since 2005, much to the chagrin of infrastructure advocates in Washington.  

The Senate has already passed a bill that includes three years of guaranteed highway funding in July, and lawmakers in the upper chamber have said they expect to be able to get a multi-year highway bill to Obama’s desk by Thanksgiving.  

The Department of Transportation has warned that it will have to stop making payments to states and local governments for infrastructure projects in November if Congress does not reach an agreement.  

The temporary transportation funding bill also includes a provision that moves a Dec. 31 deadline for railroads to install an automated train navigation system known as Positive Train Control (PTC) to the end of 2018, which Shuster said Monday is "a necessary, bipartisan extension. 

"This language was also unanimously approved by the Transportation Committee last week," he said of the automated train extension. "We need to extend the Positive Train Control deadline as soon as possible to prevent significant disruptions of both passenger and freight rail service across the country.  The sooner we extend this deadline, the more certainty we will give our agricultural, manufacturing, and chemical industries to ensure there will be no supply-chain disruptions.” 

The automated train extension had previously been attached to the House's multiyear highway bill after railroads threatened to partially shutdown many of the nation's railways.