Well, until next year

Anxiousness behind second 90-day extension passed by the House means a multiyear bill most likely will not happen in 2012

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Bill Wilson is the editorial director of ROADS & BRIDGES magazine and has been covering the industry since 1999. He has won seven Robert F. Boger Awards for editorial excellence, including three in 2011. He also was the creator of the Top 10, Contractor's Choice Awards and Recycling Awards platforms, as well as ROADS & BRIDGES Live.

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So here we sit--again. It's almost like taking a long-distance flight, when the seat cushion feels more like a seat rock by hour two. We are at that point. We have been sitting a long time, yet Congress continues to add a time cushion. It did not take much for the House of Representatives to add another 90-day extension to the one that was approved right before Congress' Spring recess. Now it is up to the Senate, and despite veto threats from the White House it will pass--again. A long-term transportation bill will not be touched until 2013, which was predicted by the experts as far back as a year ago.

 

What is a little disturbing is President Barack Obama is no longer calling for infrastructure investment. At least he hasn't for the past two or three months. For the past three years, if he was at a speaking engagement he normally gave a shout out to the road and bridge industry. Not now, not when more is at stake politically with the November elections looming. So either Obama knows it is a lost cause at this point, or he simply does not want to be associated with the debacle on Capitol Hill. Would you?

 

I do not see the Republicans losing control of the House, which means John Boehner (R-Ohio) will retain his Speaker of the House title and John Mica (R-Fla.) will continue serving as the chair of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. The Senate could swing to the GOP, but I still think the Democrats will be in control, and Obama will most likely win a second term. The characters will be the same, but will the passage of a new multiyear highway bill finally be put front and center? I don't think many politicians really care, to be honest.

 

I was talking with John Irvine, vice presdient of sales and marketing for Roadtec, at the Intermat show in Paris last week, and he told me about a run-in he had with a local official at a legislative fly-in not too long ago. John did his due diligence; he came armed with employment figures, etc., to show how valuable it would be to pass a multiyear highway bill. The politician could care less, and John has not gone to another fly-in since. I have heard similar stories from lobbyists over the past couple of years. The industry dumps millions of dollars into lobbyist efforts in an attempt to get a big enough piece of the pie so that the road and bridge industry can flourish, but in the end how much does it matter? A lot, because those same lobbyists contribute so much more to the industry, and if they were not tugging at the pant legs of these short-sighted giants the issue would get lost entirely. However, passing a multiyear highway bill should of utmost importance to every single Democrat and Republican who has a seat in Congress. They may want to be careful, because those seats can become awfully uncomfortable after a while.

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