Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, signaling new Obama administration resolve to get a national transportation spending plan, says he expects a long-delayed bill to be approved this year.
“It will pass this year,” LaHood told the SMC3 trucking industry group winter meeting this week in Atlanta. “The goal is to have a bill passed and signed by the August recess.”
LaHood would not give details on what the administration would seek in a bill except that their preferred plan would include an infrastructure bank to handle funding for road projects.
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He set an ambitious timetable for a permanent bill to replace a highway reauthorization plan that expired two years ago, leaving federal transport spending to run on a series of short-term stopgaps and highway user and road builder groups concerned about the impact of the delay on project planning.
A Democratic majority U.S. House did not even take up then-Rep. James L. Oberstar’s proposed $500 billion, six-year plan in the last congressional session, and the new Republican majority has been talking more about cutting federal spending than funding projects.
But LaHood said elected officials of both parties have long favored a transportation bill that spreads billions of dollars around the country for roads and bridges.
“I’m optimistic because of what’s been passed by previous Congresses,” he said. “There are no Democratic or Republican roads.”
Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., the new chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, has said he plans to hold a series of meetings around the country this year before putting together a committee bill.