Washington, DC - Today, the Environment and Public Works Committee approved an 18 month extension of highway programs authorized under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). The legislation passed with an overwhelming 18-1 vote.

Pasted below is Senator Barbara Boxer's (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, opening statement on the 18 month extension:

"The Committee will now consider an original bill entitled the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2009. This bill will provide an extension of highway programs authorized under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).

This legislation will extend, for an additional 18 months at 2009 funding levels, those programs in SAFETEA-LU which fall within EPW's jurisdiction. This is an authorization of about $41 billion in 2010 and another $20.5 billion in 2011.

The amendment is drafted in the form of a continuing resolution, so that all programs and projects are continued. This is a clean extension, which includes no policy changes.

We plan to take this bill and merge it with legislation being crafted in the Commerce and Banking Committees to extend the portions of SAFETEA-LU that are within their jurisdictions, and a provision from the Finance Committee that will restore $20 billion to the Highway Trust Fund.

Of course there are policy changes we each would like to make. Most of us believe the next surface transportation bill should and must be transformational, to reflect the need for more sustainable communities, cleaner air, and more transportation options for the American people. This will lead to a stronger economy, jobs and a better quality of life for our families.

But right now, with the Highway Trust Fund running out of funds even as we speak, the most important thing is predictability for this crucial priority.

In order to assure passage of this extension we are keeping this bill clean. If, when we get to the floor, there is broad agreement on other provisions, we will of course work with all members and colleagues to consider inclusion of those measures.

This markup is about jobs and our economy. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, for every $1 billion in Federal funds invested in transportation (and matched by states or localities) there are 34,779 jobs created and $6.1 billion in economic activity. That is why immediately addressing the anticipated insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund must be a top priority.

The good news is that when you add up this authorization we are passing and that of the other relevant committees, and you add the Stimulus funding of $30 billion that remains to be spent over the next 18 months, you get a 50 percent increase in funding for transportation over SAFETEA-LU's authorization.

So today we are considering a clean 18 month extension of SAFETEA-LU, which will send a message of certainty to all of our states and give us the time to develop a transformational transportation bill with a stable, reliable funding source, a bill I have already named MAP-21, "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century."

Today's legislation will keep job creation moving forward, as well as the important projects that keep people and goods moving.

As we work our way out of this recession, the last thing we want to do is create uncertainty about our transportation priorities. Again, with the Highway Trust Fund predicted to run out of funds by mid-August, I believe this 18 month is the responsible thing to do, is the right thing to do, and is the way we can give confidence to all of our states that we are on top of this funding challenge for one of our most important priorities.

I urge support for the bill."