Yesterday, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a bipartisan bill to spend up to $325 Billion on transportation projects over the next six years. The Bill, called the “Surface Transportation Reauthorization & Reform Act of 2015 (STRR)” would spend $261 billion on highways, $55 billion on transportation, and $9 billion on safety programs.
This is an important step to approving this long-term transportation bill, but we’re not out of the woods yet. There are still large hurdles to jump before it gets approved. Most importantly, the funding aspect of the bill. STRR Act is set to pay for projects over the next six years. However, funding is only secured for the next three years. The bill passed Thursday by the committee would require lawmakers to pass legislation to “unlock” additional funding after three years, but where that funding comes from is up for debate.
The traditional source for transportation funding is revenue collected by the federal gas tax, which is currently set at 18.4 cents per gallon. The federal government spends about $50 billion per year on roads, but the gas tax take only brings in $34 billion annually. Lawmakers on the Transportation Committee has said that it is up to the Ways and Means Committee to identify new funding sources before this bill can move forward.
Because Congress has less than a week to approve a bill before the federal transportation fund expires on October 29th, lawmakers are expected to pass another temporary extension-the 35th extension.
If this bill would be approved by the full House of Representatives, its next step would be to gain approval from the Senate. Important progress has been made for the STRR Act, but more agreements need to be made before a final bill is made into law.
To learn more about the Surface Transportation Reauthorization & Reform Act of 2015 click here.