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Congress Passes Extensions of Federal Aviation, Highway, Transit, and Transportation Safety Programs

This week, Congress passed a combined Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)/surface transportation authorization extension bill called the Surface and Air Transportation Programs Extension Act of 2011. The U.S. House of Representatives approved the bill on Tuesday with a voice vote. After U.S. Senate approval was temporarily delayed by amendments offered by Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Tom Coburn (R-OK), the extension ultimately passed without amendment Thursday night by a vote of 92-6. Click here to see a summary of the bill's progress through Congress.

The Surface and Air Transportation Programs Extension Act is a so-called "clean" extension that temporarily reauthorizes current programs, taxes, and funding levels with no policy changes. Federal Aviation Administration programs are extended four months to January 31, 2012, and the surface transportation programs are extended six months to March 31, 2012. FAA programs would have expired the evening of September 16, and the surface transportation programs on September 30. The bill totals $26 billion.

On the surface transportation side, the bill proposes $19.956 billion in federal-aid highway contract authority and $4.18 billion in contract authority for transit programs. It also provides $331 million for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and $276 million for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. These amounts correspond to assumed full-year contracting authorities of $39.912 billion for federal-aid highways and $8.361 billion for transit.

The Surface and Air Transportation Programs Extension Act allows Congress more time to negotiate a long-term reauthorization of the most recent surface transportation program, SAFETEA-LU. With the current act, SAFETEA-LU has been extended eight times since it expired in September 2009. For CMAP's position on the reauthorization effort, see executive director Randy Blankenhorn's testimony to a February 20, 2011, hearing of the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.