House OKs 3-Year PTC Deadline Extension

The House of Representatives approved on Tuesday stopgap legislation that will extend authorization for federal highway and transit programs through Nov. 20.

The bill also contains a provision extending the deadline for implementation of positive train control by at least three years on rail lines that handle passengers and hazardous cargo.

The bill now moves to the Senate, which last July approved a three-year extension of transportation funding.

The Senate will have two days to respond to the House bill before the authority for federal transportation spending expires.

However, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) has vowed to oppose the House-passed extension of the PTC deadline from its current Dec. 31 date.

Boxer is not opposed to an extension of the PTC deadline per se, but wants it to be months rather than years.

Politico, a Washington newspaper that covers Capitol Hill, expressed doubt that Boxer will be able to prevail in her attempt to shorten the PTC extension.

She has described the three-year PTC extension as a “special-interest earmark” and said that railroads don’t want to be scrutinized.

She described the PTC extension in the House bill as a “sweetheart carve-out” for the railroad industry

“I think Barbara’s kind of by herself on this,” said Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma).

Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida.), the ranking minority member of the Senate Commerce Committee, said delaying the PTC extension would provide “extra impetus” for enacting a long-term transportation bill this year

A nationwide rail shutdown, he said, would be an “emergency” that requires immediate action. “We’ve got to be practical about this and work this phased deal,” Nelson said.

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