The U.S. Senate has approved a one-year extension of the FAST Act, the current surface transportation authorization law. The highway program provision was attached to a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through December 11 of this year.
Last week, the House of Representatives approved the continuing resolution, so the legislation is now headed to the White House, where President Trump is expected to sign it.
The FAST Act extension includes $13.6 billion to maintain the Highway Trust Fund's solvency at current funding levels ($47.1 billion for highway programs and $12.3 billion for transit programs) through fiscal year 2021. This extension will provide much-needed funding certainty to state and local governments navigating significant revenue shortfalls due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While this extension applies to federal highway contract authority, highway obligation authority, which is the actual level of spending, is limited to a 72-day, pro-rated portion (in line with the full CR's government-level funding) of the full-year funding amount. Nonetheless, it is expected that states will continue to plan and execute projects, despite the limited obligation authority.
“While a one-year extension of the FAST Act isn’t the multiyear surface transportation bill the equipment industry was hoping for, in the current political environment, it’s a win,” said AED’s President & CEO Brian P. McGuire in a statement. “Lawmakers heard loud and clear that short-term doesn’t work when it comes to the Highway Trust Fund, and the industry needed a longer-term solution with additional funding to ensure critical road and bridge projects continue well into next year.”
Several leading transportation construction industry associations last month sent a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to pass a one-year extension of the FAST Act, which is set to expire on Sept. 30.
According to an analysis by the AASHTO policy team, the FAST Act extension within the CR provides obligation limitation through December 11, estimated to be $9.1 billion for the Federal-aid Highway Program; a $10.4 billion general fund transfer to the HTF’s Highway Account and a $3.2 billion transfer to the Mass Transit Account; an increase to the “multimodal cap” within the U.S. DOT’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grant program from $500 million to $600 million; and an extension of 2017 and 2018 Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant program obligation deadlines through September 30, 2021.
SOURCE: AED / AASHTO / House Appropriations Committee / House T&I Committee