SAFETEA-LU Renewal Needed All Nine Lives

It will be awhile before we learn what’s in and out of the new federal transportation bill.

Update: The legislative text of the proposed bill is here (1.4mb PDF, 599 pages). And here is a 91-page summary(pdf). (Also see our more recent MAP-21 coverage.)

It appears that SAFETEA-LU used all of its nine lives (that is, nine extensions), and will not need a tenth extension. Read the official statement from Senators Barbara Boxer (D) and Jim Inhofe (R) which came out very late Wednesday evening. House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica issued a statement earlier Wednesday.

Senate and House negotiators and leadership reached a deal Wednesday.  The conference report was expected to be filed by midnight (ET) Wednesday, but it wasn’t.

When published, you should be able to find it on the House rules website or here.  The vote will occur by the end of the week, probably Friday Saturday. Members will be anxious to start their July 4 in-state work period and will be in no mood to work through the weekend. Of course it take only one Senator’s objection to slow the action in that Chamber, so it make take a bit longer to clear the Senate.  But the bill is still expected to pass before SAFETEA-LU expires at midnight Friday.

What’s in the legislation? Heck if we know. In fact, maybe fewer than fifty people knew what was in the agreement when it was announced.  The details have now been shared with Members, so we’ll learn more pretty quickly on Thursday.

There have been a lot of rumors, but remarkably few leaks. Stakeholders will be pouring over the documents also, but only to figure out what’s in the proposal.  Few if any groups will be urging Members to vote no, as that would be a futile effort.

Here’s what we do know.  The Keystone XL language and the coal ash provisions are out, in exchange for keeping some of the project streamlining provisions. The bill continues to October 2014, a year later than everyone expected. That’s an election year, so maybe this deal is a positive foreshadowing for the next bill.  Funding levels are basically flat with current levels. StreetsblogDC has some intel on the bike-ped provisions.

Will the bill pass?  Yes.  It’s a deal that will be acceptable to a majority of members, though many will dislike some of the provisions.  Plus, the bill will include the student loan interest rate fix, and a flood insurance fix – both of which many members would be hard pressed to vote down.