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House Transportation Bill Plan Still Comes Up Short

The House of Representatives is seeking a higher investment for roads and bridges than previously announced, but the amount still falls far short of what is needed. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) told reporters that he expected the House to pass a new surface transportation authorization by March. Mica told reporters that his bill would spend about $285 billion over the six years. “This is what we hope will be the core of not just a Republican, but a congressional jobs effort,” Mica told reporters during a press briefing.

Several media outlets reported in September that Mica was given permission from House Republican leadership to seek additional revenue for a multiyear surface transportation reauthorization bill that could avoid a 34 percent cut proposed in a House budget earlier this year.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, sent a letter to Mica asking for clarification on his estimates for funding “current levels.” According to Boxer's letter, “maintaining current levels of funding plus inflation over six years for the nation's surface transportation programs would require $339 billion,” or 16 percent more than Mica's anticipated bill.

Congress has already passed the eighth short-term extension of the 2005 surface transportation law known as “SAFETEA-LU,” which expired Sept. 30, 2009. That extension lasts until March 31. Neither the House nor the Senate has introduced a multiyear reauthorization measure, although Boxer announced that her committee would mark up a two-year authorization proposal on Nov. 9.