U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) assured audience members during a public meeting in Minneapolis in January about the importance of securing a long-term surface transportation authorization bill.

The current law expired Sept. 30, 2009, and the Obama administration has asked Congress to delay a long-term surface transportation authorization measure until Spring 2011.

LaHood and Oberstar were featured during a meeting sponsored by the U.S. DOT at the University of Minnesota.

“President Obama wants a robust, comprehensive transportation program for America,” LaHood said. “He believes in it.” Yet he did not commit to a timeline. The current funding extension expires Feb. 28.

The 12-member National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission found that the nation needs to invest at least $225 billion annually for the next 50 years to upgrade its existing transportation system and build a more advanced one. Currently the nation is only spending 40% of that on transportation infrastructure.