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Long-term solution for transportation funding is still needed. U.S. roads, bridges and highway infrastructure are in great need of repair. As we await a solution, the infrastructure continues to crumble all around us. This will a start a wave of negative impact, beginning with transporting carriers, back to the manufacturers and eventually drowning customers in an unstable product market and transportation costs.

After the MAP 21 Transportation Spending Bill expired in July of 2012, there continued to be short term extensions made rather than a long-term solution. A five-month extension, H.R.3038—Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015, Part II—was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives. It will give lawmakers until December 18th of this year to combine their efforts and determine a long-term solution. Will there be another extension? Reflecting on what has transpired since 2012, most likely.  As of now, this bill is seen as an opportunity to continue with current road construction projects through the end of 2015.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, approval of their own multi-year transportation bill, S.1732 – Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act of 2015, has been granted. U.S. Senator John Thune states, “…we now have a bill that can move forward towards enacting a multi-year transportation reauthorization bill versus passing additional short-term extensions.”

The bottom line is we need approved funding immediately to meet the needs of our transportation infrastructure while continuing to ensure that the shipping public is not negatively impacted by the lack of a long-term solution. In a market of constant changes, there is no need to be overwhelmed with overbilling on your transportation invoices. AMTR can ensure you are being billed only for the services you receive.

Update 7/15/15

As the current short-term extension for Transportation Funding is set to expire on July 31st, more opinions and oppositions are being brought forward as the Senate continues to try and beat the clock. Last week the House of Representatives passed H.R.3038, a 5-month short term spending bill that would give lawmakers until December to develop a long-term solution. Meanwhile, in the Senate, approval of their own multi-year transportation bill, S.1732 has been granted.

Developing this week is a claim by Senate majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that he is on the verge of clinching a long-term transportation agreement with a top Democrat – Senator Barbara Boxer. Other than the Senator’s remarks, no further details have been released about the potential long-term bill.

The opinions of other Senate members range from approval of yet another short term extension to allow for more time to determine the source of funds for transportation spending; to a three year extension, carrying a solution through 2018; while others still tend to believe that there should be nothing short of a long-term solution of six years.

While everyone grapples with the length of the extension and the source for funding of transportation spending, the fact still remains that our transportation infrastructure is crumbling and time is running out.

Update 7/21/15

As indicated last week, another bill has been thrown into the ring for a solution to transportation funding. The McConnell-Boxer bill makes its debut just an hour before a scheduled floor vote – and therefore was voted to not begin a review of the legislative text. It is believed that there will not be enough time as well, to have this bill reviewed, negotiations to begin and compromises made to all end in enough votes to get it passed and sent to the President for a signatures. Highlights of this newly proposed bill include:

  • The bill provides three years of guaranteed funding from the Highway Trust Fund, the mechanism used to disburse funds for transportation projects
  • The national multimodal freight policy, which would be overseen by the DOT’s undersecretary of policy, calls for the creation of a national freight network connecting port, highway, and rail nodes within one year of the bill’s enactment. The network would be populated with multimodal facilities and corridors considered vital to the nation’s goods-moving system
  • Within three years of enactment, the DOT secretary would be required to complete a national freight strategic plan assessing the performance of the projects selected to be in the network, and identifying shortcomings and bottlenecks in the system. The strategic plan would be reviewed every five years
  • $12.45 billion apportionment to freight projects over six years, with a 10-percent maximum allocation for multimodal initiatives; the bulk of the freight funding would go to highway-only projects

Many could see this as positive progress in finding a long-term solution to the expiring transportation funding bill. It is believed that likely the short term 5-month extension bill while hammering out the details of this new proposed bill.

Update 7/22/15

The morning after debuting a six-year bill to reauthorize surface transportation programs for infrastructure investment and safety, the Senate has voted to allow talks to begin on this new bill. It will be a battle as many believe there is just not enough time to beat the looming July 31st deadline in which the current extension is set to expire. Many have resigned to the fact that the best plan now is to vote in a short term extension and use the time to hash out details and come to compromises on different aspects of the proposed bill.

Now Amendments will begin to filter in as lawmakers take the time to read through the massive bill. The main concern is the manner in which the funding for the Highway Truck Fund will be made available. Raise taxes? Cut Spending? Whatever course is agreed upon, the time to develop a solution is now.

Update 7/31/15

The Senate has passed a long-term transportation bill.  The deadline of 7/31/2015 has been met with the longer term transportation bill by the Senate and a short term transportation bill by the House – allowing government’s authority to process highway and transit aid payment to states through October 29 of this year.  However, House lawmakers have already recessed for their August break.  The bill will go up for consideration during the fall session.

As many are not in agreement with yet another extension, the looming deadline and already-recessed lawmakers don’t leave much wiggle room.  This will be the 34th extension since 2009.  At this point, the Senate isn’t left with many options as most can agree that they do not want to see transportation funding stop until the House is back and session and an agreement is made on a long term transportation bill.

Positive progress has been made today with the passing of this bill by the Senate.  Positive progress is good, but a long term transportation bill is still in immediate need.  As many bills are coming to an expiration, it may take longer than expected for the transportation bill to be addressed by the Senate. 

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