Congress on Wednesday approved legislation that extends funding for federal highway and transportation programs for three weeks, giving themselves more breathing room to craft a long-term solution to the ongoing transportation funding crisis.
Lawmakers were under the gun to do something, since the latest of more than 30 such short-term extensions was set to expire Thursday. The new Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015 will expire Nov. 20.
However, the vote did not come in time to reverse Georgia's plan to delay millions of dollars worth of road and bridge projects that had been scheduled to go out for bid in December. The 34 projects are worth $123 million.
Russell McMurry, the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation, said last week that delaying the projects was unavoidable because the state would not be reimbursed by the USDOT in November for federally funded transportation projects undertaken in Georgia.
"I'm encouraged that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has advanced the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform (STRR) Act of 2015 for the full House to consider and that a funding extension to November 20, 2015 indicates a willingness to achieve a long term transportation funding bill that this country desperately needs," McMurry said on Wednesday. "The downside of the one month extension is that the funding will not adequately advance all of the projects that are ready to go bid in December and January."
For a complete list of delayed projects, click here.
To see the updated Highway Trust Fund Ticker, click here.
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), ranking member of that committee, released a statement following the bill's passage:
“Our country needs a consensus-based, bipartisan, long-term surface transportation bill that will provide states and local communities the funding and certainty to plan and construct multi-year projects to modernize our infrastructure. We are pleased that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee advanced a six-year surface transportation bill last week and that the bill is slated to be considered on the House floor next week. It is time for the House and Senate to get to conference so that we can work out our differences and get the job done now. There are no excuses for further delay.”