In the end, they were only able to agree to a short-term, three-month extension. But negotiations continue on the larger package.
While California has been focused on putting together a transportation funding package that will address the backlog of projects, Congress has continued to negotiate the federal transportation authorization.
At the end of June, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously voted to send a six-year bill to the Senate Floor dubbed the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act. However, the Senate finance committees were able to identify only enough funding for three years. After several weeks of negotiations, the Senate adopted HR 22, a six-year authorization with about three years’ worth of offsets to address the dwindling balance in the Highway Trust Fund.
Unfortunately, the Senate failed to pass its version in time for the House to consider it before their summer break. Instead, both houses agreed to the short-term, three-month extension of the current authorization bill, MAP-21. The authorization is now set to expire on October 29.
Congress will face another daunting task in October. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew sent a letter to Congress this week indicating that the extraordinary measures the U.S. Government is taking to avoid a default on federal debt will suffice only through October or mid-November.
The House returns from its summer recess on Sept. 8. Once the House passes its version of a long-term authorization, the bills will go to conference committee so that differences can be hammered out.