Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Congress doesn’t expect Congress to pass a comprehensive surface transportation bill this year.
The differences between House and Senate versions of the plan are too great to be resolved before election activity begins in earnest, LaHood told an audience at the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting Wednesday. The statement, reported by the Washington Post, comes as House Republicans prepare to unveil their plan next week.
“I believe we’ll probably have to wait until next year to get to a surface transportation bill because of the huge differences,” LaHood said. “Given the politics, the number of days that remain, the differences between what the Senate and the House are looking at, I think it’s very unlikely that we’ll have a surface transportation bill during this year.”
The statement reflects the Obama administration’s view of the prospects for a multi-year bill to succeed one that expired in 2009. Congress voted extensions to keep funds flowing to infrastructure projects, with the latest extension expiring on March 31.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica, R-Fla., said he expected to have a transportation bill through the House by the end of March. Mica said on Monday that the House would consider a five-year, $240 billion measure.
Industry stakeholders were invited to a briefing on it this afternoon. Formal introduction may happen as early as next Tuesday.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in December passed its version, a two-year, $209 billion bill, but senators still need to find $12 billion to fully fund it. The committee’s portion covers highway construction, and the Senate commerce and banking committees still have to act on parts of the bill over which they have jurisdiction.