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House Approves Transportation Bill With Key Rail Provision

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The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a bill to keep federal funds flowing to road and bridge construction projects into late November, while also extending a key rail safety deadline to the end of 2018. In a voice vote, lawmakers backed continued surface transportation funding through Nov. 20, giving the House about three weeks longer to pass a bipartisan-backed six-year bill that would allow highway spending to keep pace with inflation but provide no new money for America’s crumbling infrastructure. The newly approved measure now heads to the Senate.

Indiana’s congressional delegation supported the bill which pleased Indiana Farm Bureau. “We are especially pleased that H.R. 3819 contains provisions for a longer term extension of the deadline for implementation of Positive Train Control technology,” said Indiana Farm Bureau President Don Villwock in a statement. “The PTC extension will prevent major disruptions of both passenger and freight rail service across the country. This will allow Hoosier farmers to get their crops to market in a timely fashion and as important, take delivery of important agricultural inputs in time for planting next year. Without passage of the PTC extension, shipment disruptions could lead to shortages, resulting in significant price hikes on fertilizers such as anhydrous ammonia. Increased costs are the last thing farmers need in an already depressed market.”

The newly approved House measure would allow the U.S. transportation secretary to extend the PTC deadline beyond 2018 on a case-by-case basis.

House lawmakers have proposed a six-year transportation bill that promises $325 million in infrastructure funding through Sept. 30, 2021. However, the legislation would fund only the first three years of investment and contains no mechanism to pay for it. Funding for the second three years would require a new act of Congress. The Senate approved its own six-year transportation bill in July.