Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Cities May Benefit from Stalled Federal Highway Bill: Transportation Appropriation May Be Forced

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Cities May Benefit from Stalled Federal Highway Bill: Transportation Appropriation May Be Forced

Article excerpt

As the Nation's Cities Weekly went to press, a National Highway System (NHS) bill (H.R.2274), which overwhelmingly passed the House September 20th on a 419-7 vote, was stalled in conference due to disagreements over its provisions and those of its Senate counterpart (S.440). The delay may force passage of a Transportation Appropriations bill (H.R. 2002) that contains language for solving a state funding shortfall that is more favorable to cities and towns than language contained in the House NHS measure.

House and Senate conferees on the NHS bill, which would designate the National Highway System--approximately 160,000 miles of the most travelled roadways in the nation and guide federal investment in those roadways, met last week but in the words of one observer, "they exchanged pleasantries but accomplished little else." The two sides differ on controversial provisions contained in the bills, such as repeal of the national speed limit and use of the highway trust funds to finance Amtrak.

The disagreement over the NHS bills may prove beneficial for cities and towns because, if agreement on the NHS bills not reached by September 30, the Transportation Appropriations bill, which is currently in conference, may become the vehicle for NHS designation.

There is substantial pressure on legislators to designate the National Highway System because, if designation does not occur by October 1st, states will lose approximately $6.5 billion in federal highway funds.

The Senate version of the Transportation Appropriations bill contains language that would designate the NHS; however, it also includes a provision that would allow states to make up an expected 13 percent funding shortfall for transportation programs for fiscal year 1996. Although the Senate bill would allow states to makeup this shortfall by transferring ear-marked funds out of categories that were set aside to finance transportation projects that benefit cities and towns into a new category that states could use to finance state priorities, the Senate bill contains language that would protect specific categories of funds. …

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