On Thursday, October 29, 2015 President Obama signed into law a bill that extended the highway spending bill deadline.
This bill was signed just in time to prevent the shutdown of spending due to the expiration of the previous extension of the spending bill. This was the 35th extension since 2009; now lawmakers have until November 20, 2015 to come up with a long-term spending bill.
In July, before the 33rd extension was set to expire, the Senate passed the DRIVE Act. This act put into place a six-year spending bill totaling $258 billion; however, the Senate was only able to determine how to fund the first three years. The House passed the $325 billion Surface Transportation Reauthorization (STRR) Act of 2015 on November 5th. Both acts incorporate funding for federal transportation programs to include highway and bridge construction projects. The House and Senate must come to an agreement on the provisions of these two acts and compromise on a joint act to introduce to the President to be signed into law.
The October stop-gap measure also included a three-year Extension for the implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC)—a system that can prevent accidents by overriding conductors and slowing or stopping trains. Despite the investments the railroads have already made—according to the AAR, about $6 billion—they were not ready to meet the December 31, 2015 deadline.
Although there have been both positive and negative reactions to the signing of the October extension bill, for shippers, the good news is that transportation systems will continue operating normally for the time being.
Visit AMTR’s website for the latest developments on this legislation.