Between the President’s jobs plan which includes a new round of $50 billion in transportation infrastructure funding and a late-breaking transportation extension agreement between House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Friday evening, transportation issues will remain at the fore this week. 

The President formally unveiled his jobs legislation yesterday and the House voted today to pass the combined Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and surface transportation extension authorization (H.R. 2887) that maintains current policy and funding at FY 2011 levels for the next four months for the FAA and six months for surface transportation programs. 

For manufacturers that serve as a core group of suppliers to the transportation construction supply chain, the extension provides a level of certainty as Congress wades into larger discussions about two different reauthorization proposals from House Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman John Mica and Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer.  As the result of conflicts that have mired the ongoing FAA reauthorization effort and no guarantee that the surface authorization holds a place on the congressional calendar for the remainder of 2011, this multi-modal (FAA, highways, transit, FMCSA, NHTSA) extension provides the right amount of breathing room for Congress and stakeholders.  NAM supports this approach and House and Senate leaders are should be commended for coming together early and decisively. 

However, the reprieve for federal transportation programs and the President’s proposed boost in infrastructure funding should not be an excuse to put the FAA or the surface transportation reauthorizations on the back burner.  The expiration dates are still around the corner and manufacturers are eager for a serious, long-term approach to investing in infrastructure that will maintain our global competitiveness and help our manufacturing economy grow. 

The President’s proposal offers a needed one-year, $50 billion shot in the arm for various transportation infrastructure programs, but for the $50 billion and the $10 billion National Infrastructure Bank proposals to be truly effective, Congress needs to conclude the FAA and the surface transportation reauthorizations to counter our broken approach to investing in infrastructure.  Otherwise we’re just hobbling along and complex multi-year projects that support regional economies, require big factory orders and employ thousands, will be cast aside in favor of what’s easy to accomplish. 

Robyn Boerstling is director of transportation and infrastructure policy, National Association of Manufacturers.