[IMAGE]Capitol-Snow-2.jpg[/IMAGE]This week, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives approved a bill, which includes an extension of SAFETEA-LU — the funding and authorization bill that governs U.S. federal surface transportation spending — through March 2011.
In addition to extending SAFETEA-LU, the newly signed bill, the Continuing Appropriations and Surface Transportation Extensions Act of 2011, provides a continuing resolution (CR) to fund federal programs, including programs administered by the Department of Transportation and the Transportation Security Administration, at Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 levels through March 4, 2011.
The previous extension of SAFETEA-LU was set to expire at the end of 2010, and this is the sixth extension of SAFETEA-LU since the original authorization expired on Sept. 30, 2009. Incoming Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla) has indicated that the drafting of a new, long-term authorization bill will be a top priority when Congress returns in January.
This legislation replaced earlier attempts to fund federal programs through the end of FY 2011. This latest bill, combined with earlier CRs, now makes five months of FY 2011 funding available to transit programs, or approximately 42.5 percent of the full FY 2010 amount. Traditionally, this level has been sufficient for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to release a partial-year apportionment notice to make a portion of the formula funds for FY 2011 available to transit agencies.
It is not clear, however, whether the FTA or Federal Railroad Administration will make funds available for discretionary programs, such as Bus and Bus Facilities grants, High Speed Rail grants, or National Infrastructure Investments (TIGER) until the new Congress completes a full appropriations bill for FY 2011 early next year.
The short-term CR will give the new 112th Congress, which will be sworn-in in January, the opportunity to complete the Appropriations process for FY 2011.