Tag Archive for 'FAST Act'

ARTBA on: Final FY 2020 Spending Bill Ready for President’s Signature

By Dean Franks, senior vice president, congressional relations, ARTBA

The Senate Dec. 19 passed 71-23 an eight-bill omnibus appropriations package, the next-to-last step to enactment of a full-year FY 2020 transportation spending law. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill into law before the midnight Dec. 20 expiration of the temporary measure now funding government programs.

The package fully-funds the FAST Act authorized spending for all Highway Trust Fund-supported programs and adds an additional $4.08 billion for surface transportation and airport improvements from the General Fund that were not previously authorized. The supplemental investment includes:

  • $2.17 billion for highways;
  • $400 million for airport capital projects;
  • $510 million for bus and transit program grants; and
  • $1 billion for BUILD (formerly known as TIGER) multi-modal surface transportation discretionary grants.

Full details in the chart below.

The expected enactment of the full fiscal year spending bills marks the first time in five years state departments of transportation will have their full spending authority prior to Jan. 1. The finalization of the appropriations and the repeal of the contract authority rescission in November mark an eventful end of year for federal transportation investment.

With these accomplishments complete, and other non-related major legislation also in the rear-view mirror, there is a clear path for Congress to tackle bipartisan measures post-impeachment.

ARTBA Washington Update: Congress Avoids Shutdown & Repeals $7.6 Billion Contract Authority Rescission

Dean Franks, senior vice president of congressional relations, ARTBA

This week Congress passed, and President Donald Trump signed, a Continuing Resolution (CR) that keeps all discretionary government programs funded through Dec. 20. The legislation includes a full repeal of the $7.6 billion Contract Authority rescission that was set to take effect July 1.

The repeal of this rescission, authorized as part of the FAST Act surface transportation law, has been a priority for ARTBA and state DOTs for years. The rescission was a budgetary gimmick included by some members of the House Republican leadership as an attempt to make the FAST Act’s investment increases appear temporary by resetting and lowering the baseline for the surface transportation programs going into the next authorization law as the FAST Act winds down.

ARTBA, AASHTO, and other industry allies have worked to repeal the rescission because it could impede the states’ flexibility in utilizing federal-aid highway funds, especially going into the 2020 construction season. The ARTBA co-chaired Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) sent a Nov. 15 letter to congressional leaders advocating for repeal of the rescission. A similar Nov. 14 letter signed by 42 national groups, including ARTBA, also called for the repeal.

Thanks are in order to the numerous members of Congress who advocated for the repeal, including Senate Environment & Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), who introduced legislation (S. 1992) to repeal the rescission which, as of Nov. 22, had 60 co-sponsors. A Nov. 14 letter lead by Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.) and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) signed by over 100 of their colleagues also called for rescission repeal.

Regarding FY 2020 spending, the CR funds all relevant transportation programs at FY 2019 authorized levels. The House vote was 231-192 and the Senate approved 74-20. The president signed the measure only hours before the Nov. 21 expiration of an earlier CR.

A full-year transportation appropriations bill is still pending. The House and Senate have passed their versions of FY 2020 transportation bills.

ARTBA understands congressional negotiators are close to reaching agreement on spending levels for each of the 12 appropriations subcommittees, which will allow for the bills to move forward. ARTBA will continue working with members and staff on Capitol Hill, and partner organizations, to ensure a final, FY 2020 bill is enacted before Dec. 20.

As Summer fades

By Greg Sitek

It’s hard to believe that Summer 2019 is fading into history. We are one step closer to a new transportation bill as theSenate’s America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (ATIA) Committee on July 30 unanimously approved the America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (ATIA), legislation introduced July 29 by EPW Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee Chairman Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Subcommittee Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md).  If enacted, the measure would significantly increase funds for highway and bridge improvements from FY 2021 through FY 2025.

According to reports from the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, ARTBA, “The Senate proposal represents the first program reauthorization bill in nearly 15 years that would significantly increase federal investment in highway safety and mobility improvements.

“The committee’s early action is a critical first step in the lengthy legislative process.  It’s also a welcome departure from the series of extensions and years of delay that have plagued the last few surface transportation bills.

“We urge the Senate Commerce, Banking and Finance Committees to take timely action early this fall on their respective policy and financing components of the measure.  Final passage of a bill this year provides a meaningful opportunity for members of Congress and the Trump administration to deliver on the infrastructure investment promise they have been making since the 2016 elections.”

The current FAST Act highway and transit investment law expire Sept. 30, 2020.

There have been reports from Washington that Senate is anxious to have the ATIA passed this year. In some of the articles, I’ve read a target date as early as this September has been suggested. Hopefully, it will get through Congress faster than the FAST Act.

In addition to transportation infrastructure getting attention, the Trump administration recently  announced three regulatory measures with significant impact for highway and heavy construction:

  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration published a request for information asking the regulated community to help clarify various aspects of the crystalline silica rule.
  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released proposed changes to the federal Hours of Service (HOS) rules, which govern the amount of time truck drivers can spend on the road.
  • An overhaul of the Endangered Species Act includes new limits to where the government can block development by declaring land as “critical habitat.”

“These three developments highlight the administration’s continued focus on removing unnecessary regulatory burdens from the project delivery process,” said ARTBA Vice President of Regulatory & Legal Issues Nick Goldstein. “ARTBA will continue to work with federal agencies to keep advancing beneficial regulatory reforms.”

ARTBA also expects in the coming weeks to hear from the U.S. Department of Transportation about the potential repeal of a federal regulation that prohibits state and local governments from using patented or proprietary products on highway and bridge projects that receive federal funding unless those products qualify for limited exceptions. The rule was adopted in 1916 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which then managed the emerging federal-aid highway program.

To address the transportation problems on the local level, there will be higher taxes in some states: The fuel price news will be compounded in a handful of states where excise taxes where hiked just as folks were finalizing their July 4th travel plans.

Drivers in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont and along one major highway in Virginia will pay more for fuel, primarily gasoline, due to tax increases that took effect on July 1, 2019the start of their fiscal years.

Some were already in the works as phased-in incremental fuel tax hikes. Others are new, large bumps in the fuels’ prices. And a few apply to vehicles that run on diesel instead of gasoline. (Dontmesswithtaxes.com)

This fall could prove to be “legislatively interesting.” You will want to keep informed.

ARTBA Chairman Bob Alger Calls for Permanent Highway Trust Fund Revenue Solution at House Hearing

ARTBA Chairman Bob Alger Calls for Permanent Highway Trust Fund Revenue Solution at House Hearing

Association Also Voices Support for Transit Capital Investment Program

American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) Chairman Bob Alger today called on Congress to increase investment in the transit Capital Investment Program (CIG) but said it is best achieved in the broader context of legislation that provides a permanent revenue solution for the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF).

Alger, chairman of Connecticut-based Lane Construction Corporation, represented the association at a House Highways & Transit Subcommittee Hearing on “Oversight of the Federal Transit Administration’s Implementation of the Capital Investment Grant Program.”

While voicing support for the CIG program, Alger said, “Congress’s chronic failure to fix the Highway Trust Fund program threatens all federal surface transportation programs, including transit projects.”

The next Highway Trust Fund crisis looms shortly after the 2015 FAST Act surface transportation law expires in October 2020, Alger said. He noted Congress and previous administrations had initiated more than $140 billion dollars in General Fund transfers and budget gimmicks to prop up current federal highway and public transit investment levels.

While the CIG program is traditionally supported with general revenue dollars through the annual appropri­ations process, continued uncertainty or disruption to HTF program funding will adversely impact all federal surface transportation programs, including CIG. As an example, during the lead up to the FAST Act, such uncer­tainty about future federal investment and HTF solvency caused seven states in 2015 to delay roughly $1.6 billion in planned transportation projects, ARTBA said.

Alger highlighted three key options that Congress should consider to permanently fix the HTF: 1) raise the federal gasoline and diesel user fee rates; 2) apply a freight-based user fee to heavy trucks; and 3) institute a fee to ensure electric vehicle users also help pay for the system from which they benefit.

In a recent comprehensive 32-page report with legislative recommendations for reauthorization of the FAST Act, ARTBA called on Congress to boost investment in the CIG program beyond the current $2.3 billion annual levels.

Alger’s testimony also addressed the need for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to improve its regulatory and project delivery process so that projects can be completed on time and within budget. According to FTA’s Capital Cost Database, which compiles as-built costs for 54 federally funded transit projects, average costs for delivering these projects increases an average of five percent annually. As a result, a project that costs $100 million in 2019 would cost $163 million to build in 2029, or more than twice the rate of general inflation.

Another key factor that can keep transportation construction projects on schedule is the use of dispute resolution boards. Such entities should include members recommended by the project owner, contractor or industry and should set up quick and efficient timelines so that members can carefully follow its progress, Alger said.

Read Alger’s full written testimony.

Established in 1902, ARTBA is the “consensus voice” of the U.S. transportation design and construction industry in the Nation’s Capital. For more information visit artba.org

ARTBA: House Committees Discuss Infrastructure Package, Surface Transportation Reauthorization

By Dean Franks, senior vice president, congressional relations, ARTBA

The first hearing on reauthorization of the FAST Act law, entitled “Aligning Federal Surface Transportation Policy to Meet 21st Century Needs,” took place March 13 before the House Highways & Transit subcommittee.  It covered a wide range of subjects, including how best to address the Highway Trust Fund revenue shortfall, measures to improve the project delivery process, and the use of new technologies to improve safety and congestion.FAST Act

Seven witnesses tackled questions from committee members ranging from building on the existing partnership between federal, state and local entities to workforce training and development.

The FAST Act is set to expire Sept. 30, 2020.  Reauthorization of the law could come sooner, however, with both the Trump administration and congressional Republicans calling for an updated surface transportation law to be the basis for any infrastructure package this year.

Also on March 13, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin defended the administration’s FY 2020 budget request at a House Ways & Means Committee hearing.  Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) began the infrastructure discussion saying, “At the top of that list is infrastructure. Repairing our aging roads and bridges and investing in a 21st-century infrastructure system is a win for everyone – workers, consumers, businesses, and the economy as a whole.”

Mnuchin defended the administration’s plans for a $1.5 trillion infrastructure package and pledged to work with Congress in a bipartisan manner.  When asked if a motor fuels tax was part of the president’s plans, Mnuchin did not dismiss the idea but also did not endorse the revenue mechanism.

Without an increase in Highway Trust Fund revenues, the next surface transportation law will require an average of $19 billion per year on top of existing user fee revenues just to maintain current levels of spending.  ARTBA staff will continue working on Capitol Hill and with the administration to ensure that any infrastructure package or FAST Act reauthorization includes a permanent, user-fee based revenue fix that will sustain adequate long-term investments in the trust fund.