February 7, 2012 Transportation Bill Debate Rolls On The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee recently introduced a five-year, $260 billion transportation bill, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act. In a press release from the Committee, Chairman John Mica calls it “the largest transportation reform bill since the creation of the Interstate Highway System in 1956.” The previous law for transportation programs, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Act (SAFETEA), expired in 2009 and received eight extensions for current funding that end in March. Uphill Climb The new bill provides funding for transportation and looks to authorize domestic drilling for oil and gas to support infrastructure spending. Since introduced, the bill was the source of hours of debates and proposed amendments, then finally approved by a House panel. However, the debates are not over a legislators scrutinize the cost and various provisions. For example, a provision authorizing longer and heavier trucks did not make it through the rounds of debates. The original language allowed the operation of 33-foot trailers in doubles formation, an increase from the current maximum of 28 feet. The first draft also allowed triple-trailers up to 120 feet long. The committee replaced the above provision with an amendment authorizing a study on the safety and effects of heavier trucks on the roads. The bill has several hurdles as it moves through the House, including the Senate’s Transportation Enhancement program, which the House bill eliminated, that allows states to use highway money for non-roadway projects.