March 02, 2011

Rahall: Highway Extension Keeps Economy Moving

Washington, D.C. – As the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee continues its nationwide series of field hearings and listening sessions to craft a long-term surface transportation bill, the House today passed by a vote of 421 - 4 a bipartisan bill that would save American transportation jobs by extending the Nation’s highway, highway safety, and transit programs through September 30, 2011.

“Extending these programs is critical to keeping our economy on the road to recovery, and I strongly support this bill – as did my colleagues on both sides of the aisle – when we passed it out of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee two weeks ago under unanimous consent,” said U.S. Representative Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), top Democrat on the Committee. “What I cannot support, however, are Republican attempts to gut investments that grow our economy, such as those in the Republican spending bill that passed two weeks ago.  What I cannot support is dangerous and draconian cuts to investments in America’s future just as our economy is turning the corner.  What I cannot support is cutting the job-creating muscle of our budget when we should be focusing on trimming the fat.”

The most recent multi-year surface transportation bill (SAFETEA-LU) expired in September 2009, and the program has continued to operate through temporary extensions since then.  The current extension is set to expire on March 4, 2011.  If Congress does not extend the surface transportation programs before Friday, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) will stop reimbursing States for expenditures on approved projects and thousands of construction crews could get kicked off the clock.

The “Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2011” (H.R. 662) was introduced by Rahall, Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL), Subcommittee on Highways and Transit Chairman John J. Duncan, Jr., (R-TN), and Subcommittee Democratic Ranking Member Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR).  The extension would give states and local communities some certainty for the construction industry while Congress works toward passing a long-term surface transportation authorization bill later this year.

“A delay in enactment of this extension will shut down more than $800 million next week in highway reimbursements and transit grants to States and urban areas, endangering more than 28,000 jobs and multi-million dollar construction projects across the country,” said Rahall.  “To keep pace with India, China, and our other international competitors, we need to invest more, not less, in America’s infrastructure.  If we stop investing in the future, there is simply no way we can retire the debt of the past.”