The chairman and ranking member of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee say they want a surface transportation reauthorization bill marked up before the Aug. 3 recess.
Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and ranking member Tom Carper (D-Del.) told Politico they’re committed to passing “significant, bipartisan highway infrastructure legislation” and they’re aiming to make investments in “a meaningful and fiscally-responsible way.”
A reauthorization bill has not yet surfaced in the House, though the chamber since January has held several key committee hearings on transportation funding.
As this development unfolded in the Senate, members of ARTBA’s Project 2019 Reauthorization Task Force met April 10 in Denver to develop the industry’s legislative blueprint for the next surface transportation law, scheduled for 2020. A proposed report with recommendations will be shared with all of ARTBA’s membership divisions in the coming weeks, and the full Board of Directors will consider a final report during the May 13-15 Federal Issues Program.
ARTBA is calling for a shift in how the nation approaches roadway safety. The association April 9 submitted its views to a U.S. House Highways and Transit subcommittee hearing.
Rather than the usual federal focus on reducing the number of crashes by improving motorists’ behavior, ARTBA believes the premise must be turned around to accept the fact that some drivers will inevitably make mistakes. On all major routes—and others to the extent practicable—the U.S. roadway system must anticipate user error and be designed, constructed, equipped and operated to forgive the errant user and protect the innocent worker, pedestrian, cyclist or other driver, ARTBA’s written testimony says.
“We have the technology and ‘know how’ to build our roadway system to anticipate user error,” ARTBA’s testimony says. “It can be designed, constructed, equipped, and operated to forgive the errant user and protect the innocent victim.”
More than 37,000 people were killed in 2017 U.S. traffic crashes, including roadway workers, cyclists, and pedestrians. Work zone fatalities increased to 799 in 2017 from 586 in 2010. (2018 data is not available.)
ARTBA’s testimony emphasizes highway work zone safety. It reminds Congress that through federal rulemaking after the SAFETEA-LU surface transportation law and further provisions in both the MAP-21 and FAST Act laws, lawmakers and previous administrations have expressed the intent to use increased positive separation between workers and motorists on construction projects.
“The law has not been fully implemented and positive separation is still not used as regularly as Congress intended,” ARTBA’s testimony says. “New products and technologies are available that make the practice more practical and cost-effective.”
ARTBA has previously called for the repeal of a century-old federal procurement rule that has become a major regulatory roadblock to new technologies that promise to help advance safety and alleviate traffic congestion.
ARTBA’s testimony also notes that sound investment in safe transportation infrastructure is a bi-partisan priority. The association is urging Congress and the administration to pass a permanent, sustainable revenue solution for the Highway Trust Fund, either as part of broad infrastructure legislation or next year’s scheduled reauthorization of the FAST Act.
An ADOSH presentation regarding respirable crystalline silica is now available, to help educate construction industry members regarding this federal rule and its implications in Arizona.
By John Schneidawind, vice president of public affairs, ARTBA
Though Congress is on recess until April 29, momentum continues to build in Washington for an infrastructure bill. ARTBA staff the week of April 15 continued working with administration leaders and Capitol Hill staff on various matters, including meetings on the Highway Trust Fund’s solvency, reauthorization of the FAST Act surface transportation law, and regulatory issues.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has told reporters she will meet with President Donald Trump (R) in the coming weeks to discuss a $1 trillion to $2 trillion package. A legislative deal that size would not only include spending to upgrade the nation’s roads and bridges, but likely other infrastructure such as the electric power grid and internet broadband.
The House is hoping to have an infrastructure package ready for a vote by summer. In the Senate, the Republican chairman and Democratic ranking member of the Environment & Public Works Committee have already said they want a surface transportation reauthorization bill marked up before the Aug. 3 recess.
ARTBA and its allies are pressing lawmakers to pass an infrastructure bill before the 2020 election season heats up. Nearly 250 companies and organizations, including ARTBA, April 11 sent a letter to the leaders of the House Transportation & Infrastructure and Ways & Means Committees urging them to address “the growing national crisis caused by our country’s decaying infrastructure.”
ARTBA will continue its efforts inside D.C. and around the country and encourages its members to do the same. One way is by contacting your members of Congress through ARTBA’s Grassroots Action Center. Another is by attending the May 13-15 Federal Issues Program and Transportation Construction Coalition Fly-In.
China is downplaying the political implications of its global development campaign known as the Belt and Road initiative, saying that it aims to boost multilateralism amid protectionist trends.
By Mark Holan, editorial director, ARTBA
The Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of U.S. House members, May 28 released a 16-page infrastructure blueprint that calls for “modernizing existing user fees, incentivizing private innovation and investment through public-private partnerships, making smarter investments with limited federal dollars, and increasing accountability to taxpayers.”
The report shows there is still a desire among Capitol Hill lawmakers to move forward an infrastructure proposal despite the May 22 collapse of talks between President Donald Trump and congressional Democratic leaders.
For surface transportation needs, the proposal calls for “sustainable and long-term funding for the Highway Trust Fund by modernizing the current federal gasoline user fee and provide proper indexing tools so that the American people do not face the same funding shortfalls over the next 25 years.” It also suggests considering:
- user fees based on the value of freight assessed through waybill taxes and broadening the current air cargo tax to trucking services;
- modest annual registration fees on fully electric and hybrid electric vehicles; and
- incentivizing pilot projects to transition to a mileage-based user fee.
The “Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure” report is a reboot of a similar proposal the Problem Solvers released in January 2018. Both reports also address other infrastructure needs, such as energy, water and wastewater, and broadband and other communications networks.
ARTBA revealed its 4th Annual Bridget report late last week. The information comes directly from each State Department of Transportation and then captured into a format created by ARTBA. As part of the “Transportation Makes America Work” (TMAW) program and ARTBA’s ongoing effort to keep the spotlight on infrastructure investment issues and need to fix the Highway Trust Fund, ARTBA released its annual bridge conditions report. The analysis of the U.S. DOT’s National Bridge Inventory database—conducted by ARTBA Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black—finds there are nearly 56,000 structurally deficient U.S. bridges. If placed end-to-end, these compromised structures would stretch 1,276 miles, or half the distance from New York to Los Angeles. Arizona ranks 43rd in the U.S., which is the same rank as last year. Of the 8,154 bridges in Arizona, 214, or 3%, are classified as structurally deficient. This means one or more of the key bridge elements, such as the deck, superstructure or substructure, is considered to be in “poor” or worse condition. 649 bridges, or 8%, are classified as functionally obsolete. This means the bridge does not meet design standards in line with current practice. 198 bridges are posted for load, which may restrict the size and weight of vehicles crossing the structure. Federal investment in Arizona has supported $989.3 million for capital improvements on 433 bridges between 2005 and 2014. Over the last 10 years, 535 new bridges have been constructed in the state; 245 have undergone major reconstruction. The state has identified needed repairs on 2,336 bridges, which the state estimates will cost $1 billion
Thanks to Miura Contracting for inviting ATB Executive Director Ramon Gaanderse and ATB Member Tucson Asphalt to a meeting hosting Mayor Rothschild at Miura Contracting. The meeting consisted of various topics but many of them dealing with how small business in the construction industry can flourish. With the assistance of the Mayor, he suggested a few ways to strategies and to gain some advantages. He also discussed about how we can help others find careers in construction and how it stems from the Southern Arizona Construction Career Days event. Lastly, the Mayor talked about the half-cent sales tax that is coming up this May. Thanks Miura Contracting for the invite!