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Senate passes highway bill, but rough road ahead in House

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Then, the House will have to pass an actual transportation bill. House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio has said he will take up the Senate bill “or something like it” this month, unless Republicans can come to terms on their own version. Rifts in GOP ranks have scuttled two other bills – one a five-year plan and the other an 18-month offering.

These delays leave some businesses champing at the bit because the summer construction season is coming, and every day spent wondering about future funding is one that delays a shovel going into the ground.

Ken Anderson, the president of the Marshalltown, Iowa (population: 27,552), Chamber of Commerce sees a trickle-down effect in local projects. Funding is a “constant unknown that’s out there as we deal with our state [department of transportation] or our local streets and roads people, and it seems like they can’t make decisions about projects going forward,” Mr. Anderson says. "Or one if they make a decision then the funding falls apart and then it's delayed and we're chasing our tails."

For the largest transportation projects, even a two-year bill doesn’t give much clarity on things to come, considering that completion times can be a decade or longer.

“Ideally we’d have a longer bill,” said Janet Kavinoky, executive director for transportation and infrastructure at the US Chamber of Commerce. “Because capital projects take a long time to plan and execute and for state and local [governments] who receive these funds, they need as much time horizon as they can to do major capital planning.”

This has knock-on effects. When governments waffle on projects, equipment manufacturers and distributors have a tough time convincing customers to make investments in their machinery. Workers, too, have good reason to want Congress to hit the gas: The long-suffering construction industry stands at 17 percent unemployment

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