Highway Bill extended once more
Still unable to reach a final compromise, Congress Thursday passed an extension of the old Highway Bill hours before it expired, this time until July 27.
The extension was the 10th time funding was extended under the old bill, which originally expired in October 2003 at the end of the federal fiscal year. A two-day extension was approved by voice vote Tuesday when it appeared House and Senate conferees had reached a final compromise, but the work could not be completed on time.
The Highway Bill covers not only funding for standard highway projects and improvements, but also establishes rules, guidelines, and policies that affect commercial transportation.
The most notable element of the bill impacting international shipping is the section setting new guidelines for the interchange of intermodal chassis between steamship lines and railroads that own or lease chassis, and the motor carriers that move them in the over-the-road segments of an intermodal shipment. For the first time, the six-year funding bill also contains language on the need for building connector roads between seaports and the main highways near the various ports.
The primary stumbling block in the new Highway Bill is the exact formula for guaranteeing how much of each state's federal gas tax revenues are returned to the state of origin. Negotiations are also working out the details of issues like safety regulations.