Last week, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood proposed that Congress pass an immediate 18-month reauthorization bill to replenish the Highway Trust Fund without raising fuel taxes. That would shore up the fund before it runs out of money -- expected in August -- and let Congress take "the time it needs to fully deliberate the direction of America's transportation priorities," he said, before considering legislation to reform the surface transportation program. Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., whose committee is not expected to write its own bill this year, applauded the suggestion. But House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leaders instead released their own blueprint for legislation to overhaul and reorient the program (not including financing), which they are pushing to get enacted before the current authorization expires Sept. 30.
Reauthorization bills have in the past required multiple extensions -- the last bill took two years to complete. So how much difference would it make if Congress took another 18 months to rewrite the nation's surface transportation law? And what might happen in the next 18 months to change the reauthorization landscape?