APTA | Passenger Transport
November 23, 2009

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Senate Leaders Call for Six-Month Transit Authorization Extension

On Nov. 17, a bipartisan group of seven Senate committee chairs and ranking members sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) emphasizing the need for a six-month extension of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) that expired on Sept. 30—and has continued to operate through short-term extensions attached to continuing resolutions. This extension will ensure sufficient time to complete the surface transportation authorization legislation. The senators urged Reid and McConnell to file cloture on the motion to proceed on the extension, citing job creation and economic recovery as reasons.

Signers of the letter were Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and James Inhofe (R-OK), chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW); Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Richard Shelby (R-AL), chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; John Rockefeller (D-WV) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; and Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

The letter noted that in July, EPW, the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs each reported an 18-month extension of the surface transportation program. The letter said, in part: “We believe a multi-month extension of SAFETEA-LU is the best solution. It would give states the certainty they need to plan and contract for transportation infrastructure projects ... Unfortunately, a small number of Senators continue to object and will not allow an extension to be considered by the Senate without a cloture vote.”

In urging the cloture vote, the Senators wrote that the six-month extension would “put Americans back to work and keep our economy moving.”

EPW Chairman Boxer and Ranking Member Inhofe convened a members’ briefing Nov. 18 with DOT officials John D. Porcari, deputy secretary of transportation, and Roy Kienitz, undersecretary for policy, to discuss issues related to the transportation authorization.

“The Department of Transportation estimates that every $1 billion spent on transportation and matched by the states supports approximately 35,000 jobs,” Boxer emphasized. “That is why extension of the surface transportation program is so important.”

“Budget rules governing continuing resolutions mean less money is available for states. Short term stopgap fixes also don’t provide states with the certainty they need to keep crucial transportation projects moving forward,” Boxer stressed. “Although I prefer an 18-month extension, the [Senate] EPW, Banking, Commerce, and Finance committees are currently working to advance a 6-month extension that will restore state funding to the Fiscal Year 2009 level and help reverse the rescission of $8.7 billion that occurred when SAFETEA-LU expired.”

She continued: “Once we pass a multi-month extension, we will continue our bipartisan efforts to enact a multi-year surface transportation bill.”

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