Highway bill process gets underway

By David Tanner, senior editor

The journey toward the U.S. having a new highway bill officially began in late March, with the White House offering up the GROW America Act for consideration by Congress. The theme? Improving

and maintaining the nation’s roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

While some see the six-year, $478 billion proposal from President Obama and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx as a massive entity that Congress may not even consider “as is,” others are looking at specific provisions that could survive and become part of a new or modified version of the bill.

In the stories that follow, Land Line examines some of these specific provisions, from funding to motor carrier safety proposals. After all, a highway bill enacted into law does become the official policy and funding for all Department of Transportation agencies and their programs.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and its regulatory actions, for example, come from Congress and are carried out through highway bill directives. Same with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other DOT agencies.

Will a six-year highway bill similar to the GROW America Act pass and make it into law before current policy and funding levels expire on May 31? At press time, that was not the likely path. Congress was much more likely to offer up a temporary extension of current policy and funding levels – a stopgap – to buy more time for lawmakers to debate and pass a longer-term bill.

The White House wish list for a highway bill may be only the beginning of the process, but it also says a lot about where the administration stands on the issues.

In the coming weeks and months, Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate are likely to offer up transportation-related provisions with a goal of getting those provisions into an eventual highway bill that comes up for a vote.

It will be important for truckers to remain involved in the issues and in contact with their lawmakers, to let them know what they would like to see in, or out of, the highway bill. LL