Congress Says See You Next Year on Transportation

Last week, Congress passed a short-term extension to funding for all federal agencies, giving them until December 11, 2020 to reach a deal on funding for the rest of 2021.  As part of that bill, Congress also included a one-year extension of current transportation law and funding (the FAST Act), through September 2021. 

That means the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) and all other federal transportation programs will continue for another year at their 2020 levels – which for TAP is $850 million.  It also means that the great progress we won over the past two years in the House and Senate transportation bills now falls by the wayside.  Congress will have to start from scratch in 2021. 

Congress and the White House also have failed to reach agreement on any additional COVID relief, meaning that transit agencies across the country will continue to struggle without any additional emergency funding.

The November elections will determine what transportation policy looks like next year – not only who wins the Presidency, but also whether Congress continues to have a politically divided House and Senate, or whether Democrats take control of the Senate.

In the vice presidential debate this week, candidate Harris mentioned that Biden/Harris would push forward on an infrastructure package early in 2021 that would include transportation and green energy.  She indicated it would be a key avenue for reviving the economy and generating new green jobs. House Transportation Committee Chair Peter DeFazio recently said that he’d spoken with the Biden team about the House transportation bill and how it could serve as a framework for an infrastructure package in early 2021.

The Trump administration has long talked about a $1 trillion infrastructure investment, but that talk has failed to materialize into actual specifics or legislative progress.    

So, stay tuned to the elections to get a sense of the possible prospects for a new transportation law next year.