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Summer Has Ended … and so will the most recent (34th) extension of the highway bill

Summer Has Ended

Visitor & guest editorial staffer.

Visitor & guest editorial staffer.

By Greg Sitek

… and so will the most recent (34th) extension of the highway bill

In a Recent American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) newsletter the civil engineering group noted:

Summer comes to an end next week as Congress returns to the Capitol after a five-week recess. Deadlines will be the theme this fall, with the first being the Oct. 1 funding deadline to keep the government open. The second important deadline for ASCE is Oct. 29, when MAP-21, the surface transportation bill, expires. With a D+ cumulative GPA, the topic of America’s infrastructure should be at the top of their to-do lists. Congress has several opportunities to address some of the nation’s infrastructure needs in the coming weeks. Here’s what to watch:

  1. Transportation

Before the U.S. Senate adjourned for August recess, they passed the DRIVE Act, a six-year surface transportation bill.  The DRIVE Act would end the current cycle of short-term program extensions and increase federal funding for surface transportation programs.  The U.S. House of Representatives has until a new deadline of October 29 to act to pass their own multi-year bill before the current law expires. ASCE has been focused on communicating with House members on the need to act quickly and pass a long-term bill. You can help by contacting your House members and urging them to #FixTheTrustFund.

  1. Appropriations for Federal Infrastructure Programs

So far this year, the House has only passed six of 12 annual appropriations bills and the Senate has not yet passed a single one. There is an Oct. 1 deadline to complete this year’s appropriation. Among the major dilemmas holding up the appropriations process are disagreements over the overall funding amounts for the federal government, policy riders that bog down spending bills and fundamental differences on what level to fund federal environmental, healthcare and military programs.

While it’s difficult enough for Congress to fund popular established bipartisan programs like the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving funds (which are facing 23% cuts), newer programs, like the Levee Safety Initiative, have not received any funding since the Water Resources Reform & Development Act (WRRDA) passed. If these programs do not receive appropriations, then the progress made by creating them becomes stagnant and no real progress is made in addressing the infrastructure the legislation aimed to improve.

And the ARTBA newsletter had the following to say:

On Sept. 17, 1787, delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed the document they had created. The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) is using the 228th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution signing to remind Congress that Article One, Section Eight, makes support for transportation infrastructure investment a core federal government responsibility. It’s time, ARTBA says, for Congress to fix the Highway Trust Fund.

“It only took the Founding Fathers 209 days—from a call for action on Feb. 21 to the signing ceremony on Sept. 17—to draft, debate and endorse the U.S. Constitution, one of mankind’s greatest documents,” ARTBA President & CEO Pete Ruane says. “In contrast, why have our elected leaders taken over 2,000 days since 2008 trying to figure out how to permanently address the Highway Trust Fund revenue problem?”

Ruane says members of Congress should heed and respond to the words of U.S. Constitution signatories Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington and make expanding transportation infrastructure investment a federal priority to support economic growth and improve the nation’s competitiveness.


Hamilton 66dcce51-dd63-45b4-a5db-96ea411c41f4Hamilton said: “The improvement of the roads would be a measure universally popular. None can be more so. For this purpose a regular plan should be adopted, coextensive with the Union, to be successfully executed, and a fund should be appropriated sufficient… To provide roads and bridges is within the direct purview of the Constitution.”



Madioson f26c5ec4-7ea9-4737-8ac8-5706d29e464cMadison noted: “Among the means of advancing the public interest, the occasion is a proper one for recalling the attention of Congress to the great importance of establishing throughout the country the roads and canals which can best be executed under the national authority. No objects within the circle of political economy so richly repay the expense bestowed on them.”



Franklin 8cd18e8a-bb5b-4723-b5f9-76bbb64a543aFranklin challenged legislators: “And have we not all these taxes too… and our provincial or public taxes besides? And over and above, have we not new roads to make, new bridges to build… and a number of things to do that your fathers have done for you, and which you inherit from them, but which we are obliged to pay for out of our present labor?”



Washington b5580c6c-4743-465b-835d-51db410776e1And George Washington, who presided over the Constitutional Convention, said: “The credit, the saving, and the convenience of this country all require that our great roads leading from one public place to another should be straightened and established by law… To me, these things seem indispensably necessary.”

With election-mania already in motion, gathering momentum with every news cast, what do you think the prospects of a worthwhile highway bill are?


This article appears in the October 2015 issues of the ACP magazines

ACP September Editorial: Highway Bill – No Highway Bill

Visitor & guest editorial staffer.

Visitor & guest editorial staffer.

By Greg Sitek

Note: This editorial appeared in the September 2015 issues of the ACP publications.

… We’ve been managing to keep our highways functional legislatively the same way we do in real life, i.e. scratch and patch. Fill the potholes, mill and resurface with a 2-inch overlay; they’ll last for a year or two, maybe even more.

I’ve been a strong supporter of the Highway Bill for 40 +/- years thinking it was the best solution. And it was 40+ years ago. Today I’m not so sure…

On May 5, 2015, Michigan citizens throughout the State sent a very compelling message to the Governor and to the State Legislature. Regarding Proposal One, a $1 .8 billion per year tax increase to fix our roads, the citizens, by a margin of 80% to 20%, said no thank you. Michigan has 83 counties, and every one of them said no.

Jack Brandenburg State Senator 8th District commented in a recent newsletter: “If I may, I want to go off topic just a bit and talk about taxation, which I often refer to as confiscation. Taxation of citizens’ earnings and the amount of government spending, which has dramatically increased through time, is a debate that has raged on for years and years. Sadly for some, the only way they know how to fix a problem is to increase taxes. They just cannot understand that the citizens are maxed out when it comes to paying taxes. Good people are literally screaming at those serving in elective positions and saying: Live within your means, like we have to’ Bottom line, common sense is the order of the day. The answer is not more taxation. The answer is less spending. We already have an $18 trillion national debt.     Debts do not occur because we are taxing too little, they occur because we are spending too much.’ Want to know who said that last sentence?   His name was Ronald Reagan.

“I fully agree and understand that we need better roads in Michigan. However, let’s remember that the worst roads are in our urban areas. We have all the population, trucks, cars and industry. Our annual State Budget for this year is in excess of $53 billion. The funding for our roads must be found within that $53 billion.   I will not vote for any type of tax increase to repair our roads. I am very confident that the funding can be found inside our current budget.

“Since the failure of Proposal One last May 5, both the State House and the State Senate have passed their own legislative plan to fix the roads. Regarding the plan that came out of the state Senate I voted. No. The plan calls for a tax increase of fifteen cents a gallon for regular and diesel fuel to be phased in over the next 2 ½ years, amounting to a $700 million tax increase per year for the next 15 years.

“Obviously, something needs to be done, but just throwing money at the problem is not the answer. I want to take this opportunity to talk with you about what I and other Conservatives are advocating regarding our road problem.

“First and foremost, it is time to re-prioritize our spending. For far too long, too many other programs, projects and government entities were put at the head of the line before road repair. Now is the time to put road funding at the top of the list. All the other entities that have been fully funded through the years now will have to step back and let roads get their fair share for the next 7 to I O years. Some departments and people will not like this but far tougher things have happened to people in life.

“Second, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Michigan Road Builders (MRB) have sold a lot of people in government on the idea that we need an additional (new money) $1.2 billion per year for at least 10 years to get our roads back in shape. Coincidently, MDOT and MRB have the most to gain from that additional funding.   However, in the last two years, they have failed to say what type of roads would be built and where all this money is going to be spent.

“Third, this is a little known fact, but up until four years ago, none of the 6%, sales tax revenue generated at the gas pumps was ever used for road repair. This revenue from the sales tax on gas all went to our general fund, public education and local governments. Michigan was one of only eight states not to use sales tax revenue from gas to repair its roads. Even now this money has to be appropriated for road repair on an annual basis and the percentage can vary. I believe this revenue should be a permanent funding mechanism for our roads, in the full amount.

“Fourth, Representative Pete Lucido from Shelby Township has come up with an interesting idea, which I support. The Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA) has a S20 billion balance. Lucido ‘s legislation calls for the interest from that $20 billion to be used for road repair. The principal amount would not be touched, only the interest. If you figure an average of 3’% annually, that is a $600 million new revenue stream that we could use for roads, with no additional cost to the taxpayers.”

You have to ask yourself if this doesn’t, in fact, make more sense than raising taxes. Isn’t it time to ask, how much does it cost to administer the highway trust fund? How much better would our roads be if we took the politics out managing them?

Action Needed to Reduce Traffic Congestion’s Impact on Drivers, Businesses and Local Economies

America’s traffic congestion recession is over. Just as the U.S. economy has regained nearly all of the 9 million jobs lost during the downturn, a new report

produced by INRIX and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) shows that traffic congestion has returned to pre-recession levels.

According to the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard, travel delays due to traffic congestion caused drivers to waste more than 3 billion gallons of fuel and kept travelers stuck in their cars for nearly 7 billion extra hours – 42 hours per rush-hour commuter. The total nationwide price tag: $160 billion, or $960 per commuter.

Washington, D.C. tops the list of gridlock-plagued cities, with 82 hours of delay per commuter, followed by Los Angeles (80 hours), San Francisco (78 hours), New York (74 hours), and San Jose (67 hours).

The problem has become so bad in major urban areas that drivers have to plan more than twice as much travel time as they would need to arrive on time in light traffic just to account for the effects of irregular delays such as bad weather, collisions, and construction zones. For example, drivers on America’s Top 10 worst roads waste on average 84 hours or 3.5 days a year on average in gridlock – twice the national average. Of these roads, six are in Los Angeles, two are in New York and the remaining two are in Chicago. Nine other cities have roads ranked among the 50 worst.

Scorecard findings also illustrate how traffic congestion isn’t just a big-city issue. Cities of all sizes are experiencing the challenges seen before the start of the recession – increased traffic congestion resulting from growing urban populations and lower fuel prices are outpacing the nation’s ability to build infrastructure. Of America’s Top 10 Worst Traffic cities, 7 of them experienced population growth outpacing the national average of 0.7 percent last year, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Houston and Riverside, CA. Additionally, some of the worst traffic cities also experienced some of the largest decreases in fuel prices (-4.1 percent nationally) including Riverside, Houston, Los Angeles, San Jose, Boston and Chicago. The result, the average travel delay per commuter nationwide is more than twice what it was in 1982. For cities of less than 500,000 people, the problem is four times worse than in 1982.

“Our growing traffic problem is too massive for any one entity to handle – state and local agencies can’t do it alone,” says Tim Lomax, a report co-author and Regents Fellow at TTI. “Businesses can give their employees more flexibility in where, when and how they work, individual workers can adjust their commuting patterns, and we can have better thinking when it comes to long-term land use planning. This problem calls for a classic ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach.”

Recent data from the U.S. Department of Transportation shows that Americans have driven more than 3 trillion miles in the last 12 months. That’s a new record, surpassing the 2007 peak just before the global financial crisis. Report authors say the U.S. needs more roadway and transit investment to meet the demands of population growth and economic expansion, but added capacity alone can’t solve congestion problems. Solutions must involve a mix of strategies, combining new construction, better operations, and more transportation options as well as flexible work schedules.

“Connectedness, big data and automation will have an immense impact over the next decade on how we travel and how governments efficiently manage the flow of people and commerce across our transportation networks,” says Jim Bak, one of the report’s authors and a director at INRIX. “This report is a great example of how data and analytics are evolving to provide transportation agencies with the insight needed to not only make our existing transportation systems work smarter but more quickly pinpoint where investment can have a lasting impact.”

The report predicts urban roadway congestion will continue to get worse without more assertive approaches on the project, program, and policy fronts. By 2020, with a continued good economy:

  • Annual delay per commuter will grow from 42 hours to 47 hours.
  • Total delay nationwide will grow from 6.9 billion hours to 8.3 billion hours.
  • The total cost of congestion will jump from $160 billion to $192 billion.

Findings in the Urban Mobility Scorecard are drawn from traffic speed data collected by INRIX on 1.3 million miles of urban streets and highways, along with highway performance data from the Federal Highway Administration. The vast amount of information, INRIX and TTI say, makes it possible to examine problems in greater detail than before, and to identify the effect of solutions at specific locations.


INRIX is one of the fastest growing big data technology companies in the world. The company leverages big data analytics to reduce the individual, economic and environmental toll of traffic congestion. Through cutting-edge data intelligence and predictive traffic technologies, INRIX helps leading automakers, fleets, governments and news organizations make it easier for drivers to navigate their world. Our vision is simple – to solve traffic, empower drivers, inform planning and enhance commerce.

Whether through an in-car or smartphone navigation application, a local newscast or our INRIX Traffic app, our up-to-the-minute traffic information and other driver services help millions of drivers save time, fuel and frustration. INRIX delivers traffic and driving-related insight, as well as sophisticated analytical tools and services across six industries covering nearly five million miles (7.9 million km) of road in 41 countries. For more information visit us at INRIX.com or download our INRIX XD Traffic App for iOS and Android.

About the Texas A&M Transportation Institute

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute is the largest university-affiliated transportation research agency in the U.S. and a member of the Texas A&M University System. Since 1950, the Institute has been dedicated to saving lives, time, and resources by addressing problems related to all modes of transportation. See more information about the study at mobility.tamu.edu.



ABC Reports: Nonresidential Construction Spending Retains Momentum

CEU2“Today’s release represents the largest year-over-year growth during a calendar year’s first six months since the Census Bureau began tracking construction spending in 2002.” —ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu.

Spending 8.3.15Nonresidential construction spending was unchanged on a month-over-month basis in June, but is up 11.5 percent on a year-over-year basis, according to a report released Aug. 3 by the U.S. Census Bureau. Nonresidential construction spending totaled $686.9 billion on a seasonally adjusted, annualized basis for the month and increased 9.8 percent during the year’s first half.

“Today’s release represents the largest year-over-year growth during a calendar year’s first six months since the Census Bureau began tracking construction spending in 2002 and serves as further proof of the recovery for nonresidential construction,” said Associated Builders and Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “Despite the lack of growth on a monthly basis in June, along with the overall economy’s lukewarm growth, most contractors are markedly busier than they were a year ago. May’s nonresidential construction figure was revised upward by 2.6 percent and April’s by 1.4 percent; therefore, it is conceivable that June’s estimate will eventually be revised higher as well.

“Exactly half of the 16 nonresidential construction sectors experienced growth in June,” said Basu. “On a yearly basis, 15 of those 16 sectors have expanded. However, the one sector that failed to grow during the past year, power, happens to be the largest. Had power simply remained unchanged during hat time period—it’s down 16.5 percent largely because of the fall in oil prices—nonresidential construction spending would currently stand at its highest level ever.”

Eight of 16 nonresidential construction sectors experienced spending increases in June on a monthly basis:

  • Lodging-related construction spending was up 3.9 percent on a monthly basis and 42.2 percent on a year-over-year basis.
  • Spending in the water supply category expanded 12.2 percent from May and is up 12 percent on an annual basis.
  • Highway and street-related construction spending expanded 1.3 percent in June and is up 14.8 percent compared to the same time last year.
  • Amusement and recreation-related construction spending was up 10.2 percent on a monthly basis and is up 39.2 percent from the same time last year.
  • Communication-related construction spending fell 6.8 percent for the month, but is up 13.4 percent compared to June 2014.
  • Construction spending in the transportation category grew 2.3 percent on a monthly basis and has expanded 9.6 percent on an annual basis.
  • Sewage and waste disposal-related construction spending increased 1.6 percent for the month and has expanded 5.3 percent on a 12-month basis.
  • Public safety-related construction spending grew 2.5 percent on a monthly basis, but is down 3.1 percent on a year-over-year basis.

Spending in eight nonresidential construction subsectors fell in June on a monthly basis:

  • Education-related construction spending fell 0.2 percent for the month, but is up 2.1 percent on a year-over-year basis.
  • Power-related construction spending fell 0.9 percent for the month and has declined 16.5 percent from June 2014, the steepest decline for any nonresidential category.
  • Commercial construction spending fell 4.3 percent in June, but is up 7.6 percent on a year-over-year basis.
  • Health care-related construction spending fell 0.9 percent for the month, but is up 6.3 percent on a year-over-year basis.
  • Manufacturing-related construction spending fell 0.8 percent in June, but is up 62.1 percent compared to June 2014.
  • Office-related construction spending fell 1.1 percent in June, but is up 24.4 percent from the same time one year ago.
  • Conservation and development-related construction spending fell 5.8 percent for the month, but is up 6.5 percent on a yearly basis.
  • Religious spending fell 6.2 percent for the month, but is up 5 percent from the same time last year.

To view the previous spending report, click here.

Statement from Transportation Construction Coalition Co-chairs

ee0d071a-4431-491a-ae5f-0d9154114faeStatement Relating to Senate

Passage of the DRIVE Act

The following is a statement from Transportation Construction Coalition Co-chairs Pete Ruane, president & CEO of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, and Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America regarding the Senate’s approval of a multi-year highway/transit bill:

“On behalf of the 31 national associations and construction trade unions of the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC), we applaud the Senate for passage of a multi-year surface transportation bill that would guarantee real growth in federal highway and public transportation investment over the next three years.  The Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act would also assist state long-term transportation planning by distributing six years of contract authority.

“Senate Majority Leader McConnell, Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee Chairman Inhofe and EPW Committee Ranking Member Boxer demonstrated exemplary leadership in finding the common ground necessary to earn overwhelming bipartisan support for the longest duration surface transportation bill approved by either chamber since 2005.  Furthermore, they accomplished this feat before the current short-term extension of the highway and transit programs expires.

“Today’s Senate vote on the DRIVE Act and the expected enactment of a three-month extension of the surface transportation programs by July 31 should bring to a close once and for all claims that Congress needs “more time” to develop a long-term reauthorization bill and Highway Trust Fund solution.  For more than a year members of both parties and chambers have used this rationalization for kicking the reauthorization can down the road.  The time for any further short-term extensions is over.

“We appreciate House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster’s recent statement reiterating his commitment to producing a multi-year surface transportation bill soon.  Achieving this goal, however, will require House Republican leaders and the Ways & Means Committee to develop a bipartisan plan to generate the resources necessary to grow highway and public transportation investment.  This must be a priority focus over the next six weeks.

“Members of the TCC will spend the August recess making sure all House members hear from their constituents about the need for the House to pass a meaningful, long-term surface transportation bill in September to ensure a final measure can be enacted before the latest short-term extension expires.”