H.R. XX: Surface Transportation Extension Act


Surface Transportation Extension Act

September 23, 2009 (111th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact

Floor Situation

H.R. ___ is being considered on the floor on Wednesday, September 23, 2009, under a suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. This legislation was introduced by Rep. Oberstar (D-MN) on September 22, 2009, and referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which took no official action.

Note: The following summary is based on draft text of the legislation and may be subject to change when the final version of the bill becomes available.


Bill Summary

H.R. ___ would extend federal highway and surface transportation programs and authorize the appropriation of funding from the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) for three months (until December 31, 2009) or until a multiyear law reauthorizing the federal highway program is enacted.  The existing federal transportation programs and spending authority under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: a Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) will expire on September 30, 2009. 

The bill would authorize $9.8 billion from the HTF to extend spending through the Federal-Aid Highway Program.  The legislation would also authorize the appropriation of an additional $105 million from the HTF for the administrative cost of running the Federal-Aid Highway Program.

The legislation re-authorizes the appropriation of funds from the HTF  for a number of other Federal-Aid Highway Programs as follows:

•  $112 million for the Federal Lands Highways Program.

•  $60 million for Park Roads and Parkways.

•  $7 million for Refuge Roads.

•  $75 million for Public Lands Highways.

•  $5 million for Forest Highways.

•  $3.5 million for Indian Reservation Bridges.

•  $27 million for Bureau of Indian Affairs Administrative Expenses.

•  $97 million for National Corridor Infrastructure.

•  $10 million for the National Scenic Byways Program

•  $16 million for the construction of ferry boats and ferry terminals.

•  $125,000 for the National Ferry Database.

•  $37 million for the Puerto Rico Highway Program.

•  $89 million for the Projects of National and Regional Significance Program.

•  $11 million for Magnetic Levitation (MagLev) Transportation Projects.

•  $5 million for the Highways for Life Program.

•  $3 million for Highway Use Tax Evasion Projects.

•  $15 million for the Transportation, Community, and System Preservation Program.

•  $1 million for truck parking facilities.

•  $1 million for Roadway Safety Improvements for Older Drivers and Pedestrians.

•  $2.5 million for National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation.

•  $4 million for Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.

•  $1.8 million for Grant Program to Prohibit Racial Profiling.

•  $3.7 million for the Denali Access System Program.

•  $49 million for the Surface Research and Development Program.

•  $6.7 million for the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

•  $19 million for University Transportation Research.

•  $27 million for Intelligent Transportation System Research.

•  $13 million for the Future Strategic Highway Research Program.

•  $25 million for Interstate Maintenance Discretionary Programs.

•  $5 million for non-discrimination programs.

•  $12 million for the territorial highway program.

•  $7.5 million for the Alaska Highway Program.

•  $4 million for Railway/Highway Crossing Hazard Elimination.

•  $31 million for Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation.


The bill also reauthorizes and provides spending authority to a number of programs of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as follows:

•  $58.7 million for Chapter 4 Highway Safety Programs.

•  $26 million for Highway Safety Research and Development.

•  $6 million for Occupant Protection Incentive Grants.

•  $31 million for Safety Belt Performance Grants.

•  $8.6 million for State Traffic Safety Information System Improvements.

•  $34 million for the Alcohol-Impaired Driving Counter Measures Incentive Grant Program.

•  $1 million for the National Driver Register.

•  $7.2 million for the High Visibility Enforcement Program.

•  $1.7 million each for Motorcyclist Safety and Child Booster Seat Safety Incentive Grants.

•  $4.6 million for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration administrative expenses.


The bill also reauthorizes and provides spending authority to a number of programs of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration as follows:

•  $52 million for Motor Carrier Safety Grants.

•  $58 million for administrative expenses.

•  $3.7 million for high priority activities.


The bill also provides $2.1 billion in spending authority for Formula and Bus Grants through the Federal Transit Program.

In addition, the bill establishes a limit on obligations from the HTF during the extension period.  Under the legislation obligations to the highway category would be limited to $10.6 billion and $2.5 billion to the mass transit.


The HTF was established in 1956 for the purpose of funding the construction of an interstate highway system.  The account is administered by the Federal Highway Administration, within the Department of Transportation, and distributes about $33 billion of gasoline tax revenues annually to States for highway projects. 

Eighty-eight percent of total receipts for the HTF come from the federal highway users excise tax (the remainder comes from truck-related taxes such as truck and trailer sales, truck tires and heavy-vehicle use taxes).  Currently the 18.4-cent federal gasoline tax is distributed with one-tenth of one cent to the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund and the rest to the Highway Trust Fund's two accounts: 2.85 cents per gallon to fund the mass transit account, and 15.44 cents per gallon to fund the highway account.

The current highway program, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act-A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), expires at the end of FY 2009.  Since being enacted, revenues to the HTF have not kept pace with the outlays, dropping off sharply in 2008 when fuel hit record-high prices and consumption dropped.

In September 2008, then-Secretary of Transportation, Mary Peters, indicated that the highway account would shortly become insolvent and needed a rapid infusion of cash.  In response, Congress passed H.R. 6532, transferring $8.017 billion from the general fund to the HTF.  During the debate on this issue in 2008, opponents expressed concerns that this transfer from the general fund not only increased the federal deficit, but fundamentally altered the "user-fee" principle of the Highway Trust Fund, jeopardizing constraint in future federal highway spending.

Most recently, in July, Congress approved a short-term, $7 billion funding "patch" for the HTF through September 2009.  Prior to passage of the extension in July, the Senate was working on an 18-month extension of the highway program, which would postpone a full highway bill reauthorization until after the mid-term elections.  However, press reports indicate that House Democrats prefer to pass a long-term, highway bill that would completely overhaul federal transportation spending.  The Administration supports an 18 month patch.

The underlying legislation would extend funding under the HTF until either December 31, 2009, or the longer-term reauthorization is passed.  It does not replenish the HTF from the general funds or add other spending provisions.


The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not yet produced a cost estimate for this bill. However, as drafted, the legislation does not appear to score because it extends current law provisions.