House OKs three-month highway bill extension

The U.S. House of Representatives today, Sept. 23, approved by a 335-85 vote legislation (H.R. 3617) that extends the authorization for highway-related programs – including motor carrier safety – for three months beyond its Sept. 30 expiration.

Legislation (S. 1496) that would extend the authorization for FMCSA programs for 18 months is pending in the Senate, along with a separate Senate bill that would extend the authorization for highway spending for 18 months as well.

Senate leaders and the Obama administration have backed an 18-month extension mostly on the grounds that it will give Congress ample time to consider long-term changes in highway programs, including financing. But House transportation leaders, led by House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee James Oberstar (D-Minn.), are resisting that idea, saying Congress should not wait so long to deal with vital infrastructure and safety challenges.

Oberstar and other House transportation leaders have drafted a full six-year bill that would make significant changes in highway programs, including a mandate for electronic onboard recorders and creation of a clearinghouse of positive drug and alcohol test results. An extension of only three months maintains pressure for Congress to address the highway authorization again in some way before yearend.