On Wednesday, September 23rd, the House of Representatives passed, by a vote of 335-85, a measure to extend the current surface transportation law known as SAFETEA-LU (The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users) for an additional three months through December 31st. Without congressional action, funding for federal-aid highway programs, mass transit, and road safety programs under the law is set to expire on September 30th.
The Obama Administration favors the Senate’s approach which is to pass an 18-month extension to keep the current surface transportation law in place until March 2011. House-Senate conferees will have to work out their differences on the measure before next week’s deadline.
House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee Chairman James Oberstar (MN) had been pushing for members to act on a new six-year reauthorization bill that he unveiled last spring, but the full Committee has yet to take any action on the measure. On June 24th, the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit “marked-up” the proposed Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act that would provide $500 billion for surface transportation programs and for high-speed rail. Notably, the bill would also create an Office of Livability within U.S. Department of Transportation which will focus on transportation planning and design techniques to create livable and environmentally sustainable communities. The Subcommittee version of the bill also includes language to ensure that “Complete Streets” policies are adopted for federal transportation projects.
With an extension in place, House and Senate transportation committee members may not begin focus on a new authorization bill until early next year. Recently, the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program, bicycle and pedestrian programs and other non-motorized transportation programs have come under attack by some congressional leaders. ASLA will continue its efforts to ensure that these and other programs important to landscape architects are included and strengthened in any upcoming transportation reauthorization bill.