Feb. 11, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Timing Key to Highway Bill

“Getting in the middle of this sort of internecine thing between the House and Senate is nobody’s idea of a good time,” said David Goldberg, a spokesman for Transportation for America, a broad coalition formed last year to press smart-growth principles and sustainability in the reauthorization debate.

Nonetheless, powerful lobbies are making it increasingly clear they don’t want to wait for the debate. The chamber’s Americans for Transportation Mobility Coalition, which includes the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, the Associated General Contractors, and the American Public Transportation Association, earlier this month wrote every Member of Congress to urge that any extension be limited until the spring.

The Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, which represents 32 transport-related unions, also came out strongly against the 18-month plan in an appearance before the House Ways and Means Committee last week. Other groups acknowledge they are stepping up their outreach to lawmakers and staff — especially in the Senate — to push for faster action on reauthorization.

While outside interests are largely united against the administration’s 18-month plan, there is less unanimity on whether a short-term extension should be “clean” — as advocated by the Chamber of Commerce and the Senate — or include some reforms as a “down payment” on the longer-term bill.

Deron Lovaas, the federal transportation policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, argues that Congress should include some reforms with any extension, especially if, as expected, general revenue funds are to be transferred into the Highway Trust Fund, which operates under formulas tied to states’ contributions.

“You’re taking general fund taxpayer money now and spending it through a transportation program that’s widely recognized as broken and that’s wrong,” he said.

But another lobbyist said attempting to add a few targeted reforms to an extension bill is a recipe for disaster. “If you open it up to one provision, you’ve got to open it up to everyone, and then legislatively it gets completely bogged down,” the official said.

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