House Transpo Bill

Transportation Nation

Tie-ups Mean No Transportation Votes Likely this Week

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Don't waste any time scanning C-SPAN for for congressional transportation votes this week. It's only Wednesday, and already the prospect of any floor action on transportation legislation in Congress is dead for this week.

That's the line from lawmakers and aides in both the House and Senate, as progress on highway bills in each chamber remain bogged down.

In the House, GOP leaders are still working on a scaled-back version of their five-year, $260 billion highway and infrastructure bill after Democrats balked and many Republicans revolted earlier this month. As reported elsewhere, discussions center around a shorter-term bill with a lower price tag. Republicans are tinkering with many provisions, including rejoining federal transit programs to funding from the Highway Trust Fund.

But those negotiations won't be anywhere close to done this week, lawmakers and aides said. "The leadership is working with the chairmen to try to bring a bill to the floor that can pass," Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, put it more succinctly: "What they're trying to do is find the votes," he said.

Meanwhile, while a two-year, $190 billion bill is pending on the Senate floor, leaders there have still not agreed to the list of amendments needed to let debate proceed. Republicans are insisting on dealing with several other non-transportation-related votes first. They include an amendment to allow broad religious exemptions to new Obama Administration rules requiring insurance coverage for contraception and another taking foreign aid money away from Egypt to punish that country for its crackdown on US non-profit organizations.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he expects a vote on the contraception amendment to take place Thursday, with others to follow. But no transportation-related amendments are likely to come up for the remainder of the week, Senate aides said.

The current Highway Bill's authorization expires at the end of March, and the slow pace of progress in both chambers is putting a new authorization in serious doubt. The House is session next week but out of session the week after. Assuming Republican leaders come up with a workable bill, that would leave just two weeks to pass it and reconcile it with a Senate version. And THAT'S assuming the Senate completes its glacial process and list of amendment votes that is already dozens of votes long.

Talk of yet another temporary Highway Bill extension, possibly 18 months in length, is growing on Capitol Hill.


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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Detroit's Furious Bus Riders, NYC Taxis To Remove "Off-Duty" Signs, LA To Get More Bikeways

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Top stories on TN:
Transit, Jobs, Construction Noise: Rockland Residents Air Worries About Swiftly Approaching Tappan Zee Bridge Project (Link)
Transit Museum Forum on Back of the Bus is TONIGHT (Link)
NY City Council Bill Would Up Electric Bike Fine (Link)
Study: Only 28 Percent of Neighborhoods Affordable (Link)
As GOP Struggles in Michigan, Obama Chortles — Says Fuel Efficient Cars Will Save $8000 (Link)
New Prospect Park Drive: Defined Lanes, Less Room for Cars (Link)

A Detroit bus stop. (By Flickr user JSmith Photo)

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica thinks that critics who believe Congress can pass a better transportation bill next year are “smoking the funny weed.” (Politico)

Detroit transit riders are outraged over huge bus cuts -- and the mayor's hiring of a private contractor to manage the city's troubled transportation department -- and plan to seek federal help in reversing the mayor's decisions. (Detroit Free Press)

New York Times editorial: the proposed Tappan Zee greenway "could be a splendid public attraction." (Link)

NYC cabs will have to start removing their taxi-top 'off-duty' signs to make way for the new system: available if the medallion number is lit, or unavailable if it’s dark. (New York Daily News)

Rules requiring rear-view video cameras in cars have been delayed again. (AP via Yahoo Finance)

Megabus' weighty double-decker coaches, currently being investigated by New York's Department of Transportation, have run afoul of authorities from Canada to Maryland. (DNA Info)

Worried Democrats want Obama to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to lower gas prices. (The Hill)

The mayor of London said some lines on the Underground would have driverless trains in two years. (Telegraph)

Commercial truck traffic on the NJ Turnpike has declined by 7.5%; high fuel prices and last month's toll hike are cited as possible reasons why. (Star-Ledger)

Nearly five months after a $50 million HOT lane project opened in metro Atlanta, drivers remain dubious, the impact on traffic is unclear, and many questions remain unanswered. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

830 miles of new bikeways have been approved for Los Angeles County. (LAist)

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