At this year's AASHTO Washington Briefing, several key members of Congress expressed optimism that new surface transportation reauthorization legislation would pass this year before the FAST Act expires.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) said that with 2020 being a presidential campaign year, he expects the process for getting a surface transportation bill passed to be "competitive, costly, and combative."
"We need a safe, reliable, and efficient transportation system," Barrasso said in his address to AASHTO. "So I am committed to getting this done this year—passing surface transportation reauthorization.” Barrasso emphasized that President Trump called on Congress to pass the senator's bill—America's Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019—during the State of the Union speech this year.
House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) and House T&I Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-Missouri) said they were working together to roll out the new legislation, despite the potential for the politics of an election year to play into it.
"We are not going to do things in the same old way,” DeFazio said. “It is time now to take a look at what a 21st century system should be. And while we might have some policy disagreements, we can work through those.”
Attendees of the AASHTO Briefing also had the chance to hear from Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who expressed a commitment to increasing infrastructure funding, particularly for rural parts of the country. She noted that improving safety goes hand-in-hand with the U.S. DOT's ROUTES Initiative to improve transportation infrastructure in rural areas. The Secretary emphasized that her department will be placing greater emphasis on reducing pedestrian and bicycle fatalities and will continue to further its anti-human trafficking efforts.