Trump signs 1-year highway bill extension

Stop-gap measure buys Congress time to complete a long-term surface transportation reauthorization next year

President Donald Trump signed an appropriations bill Thursday that extends federal surface transportation programs for one year, including $13.6 billion to keep the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) from running out of cash.

The highway bill extension was part of a larger package that funds the entire federal government through Dec. 11.

The stop-gap measure was necessary because Congress failed to pass a multiyear highway bill reauthorization before the previous law, known as the FAST Act, expired Wednesday at the end of the federal government’s fiscal year. Surface transportation bills that passed separately within the U.S. House and Senate will be set aside, and a new process will start in January.

“While we had hoped to reach an agreement between the House and the Senate this year on a modern, multiyear surface transportation bill that moves our country forward, the single most important factor right now is providing certainty to states and local governments that are under the strain of both the pandemic and the resulting economic downturn,” said House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, said that the highway bill his committee passed in 2019 is “ready to go” and that Congress should use it as a model for a long-term highway infrastructure bill.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) along with 80 other organizations had called for the one-year extension.

“We are nevertheless concerned about the continued push for changes that harm small-business truckers,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh. “Efforts to increase insurance minimums will be vigorously challenged and we are determined to see the shortage of safe truck parking addressed as part of a final, long-term reauthorization bill.”

House Democrats had included in their version of the highway bill a provision that would have increased mandatory insurance coverage for trucking companies from $750,000 currently to $2 million.

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John Gallagher

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.