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White House to pressure Congress to strike deal on highway funding

Transportation advocates have lamented that Congress has not passed a transportation funding bill that lasts longer than two years since 2005.

The Trucker News Services

7/14/2014

President Obama and other top administration officials will pressure Congress to strike a deal on the Highway Trust Fund in a series of events this week, looking to coerce a deal before the financing for road, bridge, and mass-transit projects is exhausted next month, The Hill reported.

The president will speak twice on the importance of funding infrastructure — on Tuesday from a facility that tests new highway technologies in Northern Virginia and on Thursday from an infrastructure site in Delaware.

At the event in Delaware, Obama is expected to announce new private-sector investment in the nation’s infrastructure. The White House on Monday will release a new report from the Council of Economic Advisers arguing that transportation provides long-term economic benefits for the overall economy.

As part of the push, the White House also plans to debut a new website featuring an interactive map allowing Americans to see transportation construction projects where they live. Users will also be encouraged to submit photos of road, bridge and traffic conditions.

Meanwhile, lawmakers will continue steering toward an agreement on an extension of federal transportation funding this week.

The House is scheduled to bring a bill to infuse about $10 billion into the Department of Transportation’s beleaguered Highway Trust Fund this year.

The trust fund has been scheduled to run out of money next month, but the new funding would extend the federal government’s investment in U.S. roads and bridges until next spring.

The Senate has begun working on a similar measure, though the chambers have not officially signed off on a bicameral agreement.

The progress on the transportation funding negotiations came as a relief — and a source of frustration — for infrastructure advocates.

Supporters of boosting the amount of money that is spent on the nation’s roads and transit systems cheered the fact that Congress looks likely to avoid a bankruptcy in federal infrastructure spending. They also lamented the fact that the measures that were starting to move in both chambers were extensions that were measured in months, not years, however.

Transportation advocates have lamented that Congress has not passed a transportation funding bill that lasts longer than two years since 2005. They argue that state and local governments need certainty of long-term funding to plan lengthy large construction projects.

Supporters of increasing the federal gas tax had hoped lawmakers would have approved a shorter extension to keep alive the possibility of pushing for the hike in the lame duck session that will follow the November elections. Lawmakers opted instead to push the broader debate about transportation funding into the next Congress.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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