WASHINGTON Aug 23 State leaders pressed
members of Congress on Tuesday to extend funding for highway
construction and repair, saying jobs were at stake nationwide.
The lobbying push highlights nervousness among highway
officials following last month's congressional fight over a
similar funding extension for aviation programs. That
controversy shut down construction projects for two weeks and
cost the government $400 million in lost tax revenue.
"Congress must take action by Sept. 30, or the federal
highway and transit programs that support thousands of jobs in
every state will shut down," said Susan Martinovich, director
of the Nevada Department of Transportation and president of the
American Association of State Highway and Transportation
Officials, in a statement.
The major authorization for spending on roads, bridges and
public transportation expired more than two years ago. Since
then Congress has passed a series of patchwork extensions while
they attempt to hammer out another sweeping blueprint.
The current extension expires at the end of September, and
because they have yet to agree on the larger spending road map,
members of Congress will take up another extension when they
return from their August break, according to aides.
No proposals were made before Congress adjourned.
The federal government funnels $42 billion annually to
states for highway work and $11 billion for public
transportation, according to the highway association. It
estimates that 500,000 jobs are in jeopardy if an extension
does not pass.
That number could not be independently confirmed.
South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard said his state
receives less than 1 percent of federal transportation funding,
which is primarily based on the 18.4 cent per gallon gas tax
levied at the pump. He added, though, that the road money is
crucial for many rural states.
"Two-thirds of the truck traffic in this state does not
originate or reach its destination in South Dakota," he said in
a statement. "While interstate commerce is essential, so are
the travel needs of South Dakotans for business and leisure."
Last month, Congress failed to pass a similar extension of
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding before the then
extension ended, leading to temporary layoffs and federal
employee furloughs for two weeks.
In July, the chairman of the House of Representatives
Transportation Committee said he would roll out a six-year plan
to spend $35 billion a year, relying on state infrastructure
banks. The Senate Public Works committee, meanwhile, is looking
into a two-year bill with a slightly bigger price tag.
The Obama administration deferred comment on prospects for
an extension, instead remaining intent that Congress should
pass a long-term bill.
"Every year, hundreds of thousands workers' paychecks
depend on federally-funded projects to build roads, bridges,
transit and rail," said Olivia Alair, a U.S. Transportation
"Without a new transportation bill to provide certainty to
contractors and state DOTs, jobs for those construction
workers, and hundreds of thousands more who support and supply
them, are at risk," Alair said.
(Additional reporting by John Crawley and Karen Pierog in