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American ShipperInfrastructureNews

Coalition seeks one-year extension of FAST Act

Businesses, state DOTs want $37 billion in emergency funding

A coalition of 88 business and government groups is pressing Congress to extend the current surface transportation law for one year before it expires in three weeks.

The $305 billion Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act – known as the FAST Act – was signed by President Obama in 2015 and is set to expire at the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. In addition to creating grant programs for states and establishing performance levels for the highway, rail and maritime sectors, the law authorized funding out of the notoriously unstable Highway Trust Fund.

The organizations lobbying for the extension – which include the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, American Association of Port Authorities, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance and the American Road & Transportation Builders Association – warned that state and local entities have already delayed or canceled $8 billion in surface transportation projects due to revenue declines related to COVID-19.

“Failure to approve a one-year extension with increased funding for the purpose of stability would only exacerbate this dire situation,” the groups stated in a Wednesday letter to congressional leaders.

The coalition urges Congress to pass legislation before Sept. 30 that includes:

  • A turnkey, one-year extension of the current surface transportation law with increased investment levels.
  • Emergency federal funding for state departments of transportation and public transit agencies – $37 billion and $32 billion, respectively. 
  • Provisions to ensure solvency of the Highway Trust Fund for the duration of the extension at a minimum.

“Passing legislation that includes the aforementioned priorities would enable critical improvements that increase the safety and efficiency of the surface transportation system,” the letter states. “This timely action by Congress would tangibly enhance the quality of life for all Americans and jump-start America’s economic recovery.”

Senate Republicans and House Democrats have passed respective passed bills reauthorizing surface transportation legislation but have yet to build consensus from across the aisle.

Transportation leaders in both chambers have been uniting around a one-year extension, according to Politico, which it noted would give the next Congress time to organize. “The extension could pass by unanimous consent as a standalone bill or be attached to the aforementioned continuing resolution,” the news outlet said.

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John Gallagher, Washington Correspondent

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.

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