On Friday, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill that provides a two-week extension for federal transportation funding. The short-term fix comes as lawmakers continue to iron out a compromise on a multi-year highway bill, which could include provisions related to alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs).
The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R.3996, the “Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2015, Part II,” last week, and Senate approval soon followed. The law extends through Dec. 4 authority and funding for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s surface transportation programs.
Because the House and Senate passed their own versions of six-year highway funding bills earlier this year, they established a conference committee in order to resolve the differences between their respective legislation. However, if not for H.R.3996, highway funding would have expired Friday night because the committee’s efforts are still ongoing.
As of Nov. 9, the House’s long-term bill included an amendment to clarify alternative fuel vehicles’ eligibility for certain Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program funds. It also included a provision requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to provide the same incentives to automobile manufacturers for the production of natural gas vehicles that it does for the production of electric vehicles.
Meanwhile, the Senate’s long-term bill, passed in July, included an amendment to give a 2,000-pound weight allowance to natural-gas-powered trucks on federal highways.
It is unclear whether those AFV provisions will be ultimately be included in the final highway bill.
When H.R.3996 was introduced, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., explained, “The House and Senate are making good progress in resolving differences between their respective multi-year surface transportation reauthorization proposals. The conference committee needs the time necessary to meet in public, complete negotiations, and produce a final measure that helps improve America’s infrastructure.
“This clean extension provides time for that process to occur and for the House and Senate to vote on the final legislation, without shutting down transportation programs and projects in the meantime,” he said.