Highway Deal Will Fund Projects Through 2014
With talks entering their final few hours, negotiators have decided on most of a compromise transportation bill that will fund projects through the end of fiscal year 2014, according to several House members of the conference committee.
"Our country needs the kind of economic boost that this bill offers, and I am looking forward to getting it to the president's desk," said Conference Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
Conferees are expected to get copies of a finalized report by about 9 p.m., with about two hours to review and sign off on it, said Conference Committee Vice Chairman John Mica, R-Fla. Under House rules, a vote cannot take place until the third day after a report is filed, setting the House up for a Friday vote if conferees sign off on a deal.
Democrats' fears that negotiators agreed to huge concessions over environmental protections, bike and pedestrian projects and program consolidation were overblown, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said, citing a conversation with Boxer.
"Given the fact that we now have some hard information. ... It doesn't do violence to programs and projects we care about," DeFazio said. "I think Democrats will be supportive."
House GOP conferee Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., said he expects House Republicans will strongly support the package as well.
DeFazio confirmed that provisions fast-tracking the Keystone XL pipeline and deregulating coal ash, a byproduct of coal production, were not a part of the deal. Funding for transportation enhancements -- projects such as bike lanes -- will be split, with half set aside for local governments and half set aside for state governments, which will have the option to opt out of using the money on enhancements.
The deal will also allow projects that receive less than $5 million in federal funding to forgo environmental reviews, Bucshon said. The same is true of some "emergency" projects, such as replacing a flooded bridge with another made of the same materials and to the same specifications.