Broad Coalition Leans on Congress to Pass Transportation Spending Bill

Congress is under pressure from an unusually wide range of industries and groups to pass a spending bill for transportation.

The push to get a bill passed by March 31, when current legislation for infrastructure expires, has made for strange bedfellows. Supporters include the hotel, food and retail industries, hospitals, trade associations for engineers and cement-makers, local governments and even religious and civil-rights groups.

Advocates say the breadth of the support illustrates the importance of highways, bridges, ports and public transit to the U.S. economy.

"The bill itself speaks to every facet of American life. It speaks to the needs of commuters, to the needs of business, to job-creation issues, to congestion issues, to air-pollution issues and to safety issues," said Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department.

"That, combined with the fact that the general public wants this to get done, is going to push this bill forward," he said.

But despite the broad lobbying push, the passage of long-term transportation legislation is far from a sure thing. Momentum for a new measure has almost completely stalled in the House, where even a plan from Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to pare down a five-year, $260 billion transportation bill into an 18-month version was met with opposition from majority Republicans.

The Senate's counter to the House measure, a bill that would spend $109 billion over the next two years, has also run into trouble, though Democrats in the upper chamber say they hope to limit debate on amendments they have derided as non-germane to the road and transit issues with a cloture vote this week.

If Congress fails to pass a transportation bill, it won't be for lack of support outside the Capitol.

Read the entire article at The Hill.