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House Passes Modified Extension; Spares Bike/Ped
Yesterday, the House passed a 90-day extension of the current transportation authorization law. Unlike past extensions, this one includes amendments related to “environmental streamlining,” harbor maintenance, and the disposal of coal ash. Environmental groups oppose these changes. The issue that has received the most headlines is the Keystone Pipeline, which was included in the extension. This is a hot button political issue with potential implications on the presidential race.
But the news for cyclists is what didn’t happen.
There had been fear that the Republican leadership would strip out bicycling and walking funds, like Transportation Enhancements. That did not occur. Nor did they gut the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, another important source of bicycling funds. These cuts, proposed in H.R. 7, had become controversial among Republicans as well as Democrats. Bicyclists at the National Bike Summit also sent a strong message to Congress about the importance of these programs.
The passage of the extension now sets up the possibility that the House and Senate will conference in an attempt to reconcile the differences, which are many, between the House’s extension and MAP-21, a two-year bill that was passed by the Senate in March.
"The purpose of this extension is that we can hopefully bring about resolution and conference legislation to complete our transportation bill," said Rep. John Mica (R-FL), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. To do this, the House would have to send their extension to conference and the Senate would have to take it up and 'deem it in order.' And both Chambers would have to appoint conferees. Majority Leader Harry Reid says that he expects to appoint the Senate’s conferees today. After all of that, the difficult work of resolving the differences between the pieces of legislation would begin.
Secretary LaHood is on record saying he does not believe a law will be passed before the election.
The League and America Bikes are asking Congress to maintain dedicated funding for biking and walking, such as Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School, and the Recreational Trails Program.
Click here for a great update from the America Bikes blog (on their new, updated website).